Pro-choice advocates warned a domino effect would happen in the wake of Texas’ extreme abortion restriction – and it’s officially underway. Alabama became the fourth state to file a Texas-style abortion restriction on Tuesday evening, mirroring the Lone Star State’s ban right down to the deputizing of private citizens.
State Rep. Jamie Kiel (R) filed Alabama’s House Bill 23 on Tuesday ahead of the 2022 legislative session with support from 23 other Republican state representatives. Just like the Texas restriction, H.B. 23 bans abortion around the six-week point, a point at which most people don’t yet know they’re pregnant.
The bill also encourages private citizens to sue “any person who performs or induces an abortion” or anyone who “aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion” after that point, the legislation states. This means that if a person in Alabama successfully sues under H.B. 23, they could receive a bounty of at least $10,000 and have all of their legal fees paid for by the opposing side.
Similar to the Texas law, H.B. 23 opens up any person or organization that helps pays for the cost of an abortion to civil action, which includes many practical organizations and abortion funds that are integral in the support of abortion seeking patients.
The bill does not allow private citizens to sue pregnant women, and makes exceptions before the six-week ban in a case of a “medical emergency,” although it does not define what a medical emergency is.
H.B. 23 does not make exceptions for abortion in cases of rape or incest, but the bill does note that an abuser who impregnated their victim “through an act of rape, sexual abuse, incest or any other sex offense” is prohibited from bringing civil action.
Kiel did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Alabama lawmakers introduced the copycat bill the same day state legislators in Arkansas filed a similar bill. The Arkansas bill goes a step further, however, and bans abortion at any point in pregnancy. Similar to Arkansas, Ohio introduced a Texas-style bill attempting to ban abortion at any point in pregnancy in November. Florida was the first state to introduce a copycat bill, but abortion rights advocates on the ground don’t believe the legislation will gain traction.
“Anti-choice extremist politicians in Arkansas, Alabama, and other states across the country are clearly emboldened by the Supreme Court supermajority hostile to reproductive freedom,” said NARAL Pro-Choice America President Mini Timmaraju. “And these lawmakers will stop at nothing to attack abortion from every angle imaginable.”
Some believe that Kiel’s copycat bill and others like it in Arkansas, Florida and Ohio are nothing more than political grandstanding since the Texas law could be struck down at any moment by the Supreme Court. The high court heard oral arguments last month on the controversial Texas law, specifically debating its enforcement mechanism. Although many of the Supreme Court justices seemed open to allowing legal challenges to Texas’ abortion ban, a decision has yet to be handed down.
Anti-abortion advocate Eric Johnson, who is an Alabama Pro-Life Coalition attorney and author of the state law banning abortion, told local news outlet Alabama.com that he thought Kiel’s bill was “premature” and a “waste of time” when the Supreme Court has yet to decide on the Texas case. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), a staunch anti-abortion lawmaker, expressed similar sentiments when a copycat Texas bill was introduced in his state’s legislature on Tuesday.
Reproductive rights advocates and pro-choice lawmakers warned that a domino effect would likely happen on the state level after the Texas abortion ban went into effect on Sept. 1.
The part of the legislation that deputizes private citizens was intentionally crafted by lawmakers to make it hard to challenge legally. Because it’s hard to fight this law in court, the Texas six-week ban on abortion is still in effect despite the fact that abortion is currently a constitutional right under Roe v. Wade. This is also the reason that the law is so appealing to other states seeking to end legal abortion.
Lawmakers in several other states including Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri and South Carolina have expressed support for passing similar legislation in their home states. According to a recent poll, about two-thirds of Americans say the Texas law should be struck down by the Supreme Court.
Just last week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case that centers on a Mississippi 15-week abortion ban. The decision threatens Roe v. Wade. Although the decision won’t be handed down until June or July 2022, the oral arguments suggested that the conservative majority on the Supreme Court is likely to gut Roe.
In the wake of such serious attacks on Roe, pro-abortion rights lawmakers and advocates have called on the Senate to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act. The bill, which recently passed with historic support in the House, would protect the right to access legal abortion care across the country by providing safeguards against state bans and medically unnecessary hurdles.
“Our fundamental rights are in a state of emergency, and our leaders in the Senate need to act now to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act to safeguard the legal right to abortion and stop these attacks in their tracks,” said Timmaraju. “Our freedom to make our own decisions about our families and futures depends on it.”