In Alabama, Performing Abortions Would Carry Harsher Penalties Than Many Sex Crimes

Alabama's Human Life Protection Act would make it a felony to perform abortions, even in cases involving incest -- a crime with a lesser penalty.

The Alabama abortion bill that passed the state Senate on Tuesday night would make performing an abortion punishable by up to 99 years in prison ― a penalty more severe than for some sex crimes that might result in an unwanted pregnancy, including incest.

The Human Life Protection Act makes it a Class A felony to perform abortions at any stage of pregnancy, except in cases where a pregnant woman’s life is at risk. Doctors convicted of doing so would face a minimum of 10 years in prison. The bill passed state Senate 25 to 6, and now goes to Gov. Kay Ivey (R), who hasn’t said whether she’ll sign it into law.

It’s the nation’s strictest abortion bill, designed in part to lead to a Supreme Court challenge of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which makes abortion a woman’s constitutional right. Alabama’s Republican-controlled Senate rejected exemptions that would have allowed abortions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

If it becomes law, the bill would make the punishment for performing abortions as severe or worse than for committing rape or incest.

Incest and first-degree sexual abuse, for example, are Class C felonies in Alabama, punishable by a maximum of 10 years. Second-degree rape ― defined as rape in which the victim is 12 to 16 years old and the assailant is at least two years older, or the victim is incapable of consenting ― carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Only those sex crimes deemed most serious by the state ― such as first-degree rape and sexual torture ― carry sentencing guidelines similar to what the Human Life Protection Act would impose. If the act takes effect, those heinous sex crimes, along with performing an abortion, all would be considered Class A felonies, punishable by sentences of between 10 years and life.

Women across the country were drawing the same lines comparing the punishments. Former HuffPost Reporter Laura Bassett noted that men, in all cases, would face little to no consequence for their part in an unwanted pregnancy.

Author Geraldine DeRuiter characterized the punishments ― the legal ones for doctors, and the life-altering ones for women forced to carry unwanted pregnancies ― as “terrifying.”

“The individuals who are denied abortions have to endure carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term,” DeRuiter wrote on Twitter. “Which is its own terrifying, unjust punishment.”