Hundreds of protesters gathered outside Alabama’s capitol building to voice their objection to the state’s newly-approved anti-abortion bill. The protest, which took place on Sunday, May 19th, saw protesters chanting "my body, my choice!" and "vote them out!" outside the state capitol.
The demonstration comes just days after Alabama’s Governor, Kay Ivey, signed the most stringent abortion law in the nation. Under the new law, performing an abortion becomes a felony in almost all cases except when it is necessary for the mother’s health. The law, in its current iteration, does not provide an exception for rape and incest pregnancies. "Banning abortion does not stop abortion. It stops safe abortion," said Staci Fox, who is the CEO and president of Planned Parenthood Southeast. She delivered her comments while addressing a crowd of cheering protesters who had gathered outside the Alabama Capitol in the city of Montgomery.
Alabama forms part of several conservative states that seek to bring new legal challenges against the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. It is this 1973 landmark ruling that legalised abortion nationwide. Governors in Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia have all approved bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected. This can begin as early as the sixth week of pregnancy.
None of the laws have actually been put into effect and all are expected to be blocked by the courts. This because the legal challenges are expected to play out with an ultimate eye on the Supreme Court.
According to AP, marchers on May 19th said the measures have energised supporters of legalised abortion. Many of the protesters said they are making preparations for a protracted legal and political fight. Two of the speakers at the rally shared their stories of having an abortion, including one woman who described the abortion she had after allegedly being raped at a party when she was only 18.
Similar demonstrations were held in Birmingham and Huntsville on May 19th.
Amanda Reyes, who runs the not-for-profit, Yellowhammer Fund, said donations have begun streaming in since the passage of the Alabama bill. The group provides funding to help women on low-incomes obtain abortions
In accordance with the new Alabama law, abortion becomes a felony, punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison for performing an abortion. There would be no punishment for the woman receiving the abortion.
But Sunday’s protest comes in a state where a majority of voters recently agreed to include anti-abortion language in the Alabama Constitution. 59% of state voters approved the constitutional amendment in November, saying the state recognises the rights of the "unborn". "To the bill's many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians' deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God," Ivey said in a statement after signing the ban into law.
The Alabama law has also come under criticism from several conservatives who are unhappy that the law makes no exception for rape and incest. President Donald Trump, while not mentioning Alabama's law, wrote in a series of tweets, "As most people know and for those who would like to know, I am strongly Pro-Life, with the three exceptions - Rape, Incest and protecting the Life of the mother - the same position taken by Ronald Reagan."