Alabama lawmakers Tuesday passed a bill that would ban abortions the instant a fetal heartbeat is detected — a measure that would effectively eliminate most abortions.
The House voted 73-29 for the measure, one of four anti-abortion bills it sent to the Senate. The bill includes no exception for women who become pregnant through rape and incest.
Fetal heartbeats can be detected as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, meaning that if the Senate passes the measure and Republican Gov. Robert Bentley signs it, Alabama would join North Dakota in imposing the strictest abortion laws in the country.
The North Dakota bill has been challenged in federal court and hasn't gone into effect.
Debate on the bill was sharp and racially tinged after the bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. Sue McClurkin, likened the anti-abortion movement to the campaign that led to the Supreme Court's 1954 ruling banning school segregation in Brown v. Board of Education.
Pointing his finger for emphasis, Democratic Rep. Alvin Holmes, who is African-American, accused told House Republicans of hypocrisy.
"Ninety-nine percent of those of you sitting here now, you know if your daughter got pregnant by a black man, you're going to make her have an abortion," Holmes said. "You're not going to let her have the baby."
But McClurkin told NBC station WSFA of Montgomery that the real debate was over saving lives.
"I would personally love for each person in this state to respect life," she said.
The House also passed measures Tuesday to:
- Extend the waiting period for an abortion from 24 to 48 hours.
- Require parents to present a birth certificate or adoption papers when giving consent for their daughter to have an abortion.
- Require women seeking an abortion because a fetus is likely to be born with a fatal disease or abnormality to be informed about hospice services for babies.
First published March 4 2014, 7:45 PM
M. Alex Johnson
M. Alex Johnson is a senior writer for NBC News covering general news, with an emphasis on explanatory journalism and data analysis. Johnson joined NBCNews.com in January 2000 from The Washington Post, where he was news editor of washingtonpost.com and night city editor of the print edition. He has also worked at the Knight-Ridder Washington bureau, Congressional Quarterly and The Charlotte Observer, where he was part of a team that won the 1987 Pulitzer Gold Medal for Public Service. He is a member of the National Press Club, Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Online News Association.
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