Voters in Alabama passed a sweeping constitutional amendment that could strip away abortion rights by defining the state’s support of “the rights of unborn children” and eliminating constitutional protections for a woman’s right to an abortion.
Reproductive rights advocates worry the amendment could open the door to policies further curtailing abortion access, part of a wave of state-level initiatives targeting abortion rights in recent years, backed by Republican lawmakers.
Amendment 2 would add language to the state’s constitution that would
declare and otherwise affirm that it is the public policy of this state to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, most importantly the right to life in all manners and measures appropriate and lawful; and to provide that the constitution of this state does not protect the right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.
The Republican-controlled Alabama Legislature passed a version of the amendment in 2017 before turning it over to voters to decide. Defenders of the amendment have argued that it is simply a statement of Alabama’s anti-abortion values and does not directly change specific policies on abortion.
But according to reproductive rights groups, the amendment could make it harder for women to ensure abortion access through the courts and would help lawmakers further justify legislation restricting abortion rights.
Tennessee passed a similar amendment in 2014, but Alabama’s goes further because it does not include language outlining exceptions for incest, rape or the life of the mother.
“The breadth of the language appears to enshrine that there could be no abortion in Alabama,” Randall Marshall, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, which opposes the amendment, told The Associated Press.
Women would still be protected on the federal level, under Roe v. Wade — unless the Supreme Court overturns the landmark ruling guaranteeing a woman’s right to an abortion, which is increasingly a possibility, given the court’s strengthened conservative majority under President Donald Trump.
Last month, the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to Tennessee’s amendment, a victory for anti-abortion advocates.
This year, voters in two other states, West Virginia and Oregon, considered similar but less-broad ballot initiatives designed to strip away reproductive rights.