Alabama law would charge abortion patients with murder

An Alabama state lawmaker running for office on “medical liberty” has filed legislation that would allow law enforcement agencies to prosecute patients who miscarry on murder and assault charges.

The bill by Republican state Rep. Ernie Yarbrough and several other Republican lawmakers would strike down a provision in state law that exempts abortion patients from prosecution and insert a so-called “personhood” clause that would redefine “person” at the time of fertilization. an embryo. giving a zygote the same rights as the person who carries it.

Prosecutions for abortion, “regardless” of the viability of the pregnancy, “would be treated in the same manner as prosecutions for homicide or assault on a person born alive,” according to the bill, casting doubt on whether the state could criminalize miscarriages or other adverse acts. pregnancy results.

“The lives of the unborn must be protected by the same criminal and civil laws that protect the lives of the unborn,” the bill states.

The proposal joins a far-right, largely unsuccessful “abolishing abortion” campaign among lawmakers and anti-abortion activists across the US emboldened by the US Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to strike down the constitutional right to abortion care.

Alabama is among more than a dozen states, mostly in the southern US, where abortion is now effectively illegal or access is severely restricted.

The move by Rep. Yarbrough and four other state legislators would also give district attorneys and the state attorney general “concurrent authority” to prosecute abortion cases if other law enforcement agencies refuse. Dozens of officials from across the United States signed a statement last year pledging to refuse to prosecute anti-abortion laws.

Earlier this year, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said authorities could prosecute people who use abortifacient drugs under a “chemical endangerment to a child” statute initially designed to protect children from exhaust fumes. methamphetamine labs.

Rep. Yarbrough’s bill also provides that a pregnant person can be prosecuted if they were “intentionally” or “recklessly” placed in a “situation where it was probable” that they would be “under duress.”

The bill adds a clause that medical providers would not be prosecuted if an abortion is required to save the life of the pregnant patient, provided “all other reasonable alternatives to medical care or treatment have been exhausted.” ”.

Robin Marty, operations manager for the West Alabama Women’s Center, saying the clause “guarantees that no medical provider will perform any service that could save the life of a pregnant person for fear of jail time.”

The “all reasonable alternatives” clause “is going to scare them,” he wrote on Twitter.

the independent has requested comment from Representative Yarbrough.

Last year, a Republican state lawmaker from Louisiana introduced a similar bill to prosecute patients who miscarry, but the measure was withdrawn and effectively dead after debate.

The Alabama legislation was introduced on May 9, about a year after political published a “leaked” draft of the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organizationthat overturned Roe vs. Wade and constitutional protections for abortion access that were in place for roughly half a century.

Following the court’s official decision in the case in June, anti-abortion state lawmakers proposed and enacted a wave of restrictions that have sparked dozens of legal battles across the country.

Since the high court ruling, Alabama law prohibits all abortions at any stage of pregnancy, including in cases of rape or incest, except to save the life of the patient.

Democratic state lawmakers have introduced legislation to repeal the state’s decade-old anti-abortion law, pre-Roe statute making it a crime for anyone to induce an abortion or a miscarriage.

Republican Tommy Tuberville, one of two Republican members of the US Senate from the state, also launched a blockade against the confirmation of nominees to serve in the US Department of Defense to protest federal policies that allow service members to access abortion services.

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