Lawmakers in the US state of Alabama have approved the country's toughest abortion law.
The state senate voted 25 to six to outlaw abortion at any stage of pregnancy, even if that pregnancy was the result of incest or rape. The law also stipulates that doctors who perform abortions could potentially be sent to prison for life. Outside the legislature, women's groups protested the bill. It will now go to the state governor for her approval. The minority Democrats denounced the law, but the majority Republicans supported it. And they say they want the abortion bill to end up in the US Supreme Court so that it will rule on whether abortion is legal.
Roe v. Wade, legal case in which the U.S. Supreme Court on January 22, 1973, ruled (7–2) that unduly restrictive state regulation of abortion is unconstitutional. In a majority opinion written by Justice Harry A. Blackmun, the court held that a set of Texas statutes criminalizing abortion in most instances violated a woman’s constitutional right of privacy, which it found to be implicit in the liberty guarantee of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (“…nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”).
The case began in 1970 when “Jane Roe”—a fictional name used to protect the identity of the plaintiff, Norma McCorvey—instituted federal action against Henry Wade, the district attorney of Dallas county, Texas, where Roe resided. The Supreme Court disagreed with Roe’s assertion of an absolute right to terminate pregnancy in any way and at any time and attempted to balance a woman’s right of privacy with a state’s interest in regulating abortion. In his opinion, Blackmun noted that only a “compelling state interest” justifies regulations limiting “fundamental rights” such as privacy and that legislators must therefore draw statutes narrowly “to express only the legitimate state interests at stake.” The court then attempted to balance the state’s distinct compelling interests in the health of pregnant women and in the potential life of fetuses. It placed the point after which a state’s compelling interest in the pregnant woman’s health would allow it to regulate abortion “at approximately the end of the first trimester” of pregnancy. With regard to the fetus, the court located that point at “capability of meaningful life outside the mother’s womb,” or viability.