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Ivey signs bill to criminalize abortions

Gov. Kay Ivey signed the most stringent abortion legislation in the nation Wednesday, making performing an abortion a felony in nearly all cases.

“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.

Rep. Wes Allen, R-Pike, called it a “historic day” for Alabama.

“Today is a historic day in Alabama and in the country as a whole,” Allen said. “For the first time in decades, there is now a path for the Supreme Court to overturn the horrific decision that led to millions of murders because of Roe v. Wade. I am proud to have voted for this law and to have kept a promise I made on the campaign trail to do everything possible to protect the lives of unborn babies.”

The bill’s sponsors want to give conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court a chance to gut abortion rights nationwide, but Democrats and abortion rights advocates criticized the bill as a slap in the face to women voters.

“It just completely disregards women and the value of women and their voice. We have once again silenced women on a very personal issue,” said Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, a Birmingham Democrat.

The legislation Alabama senators passed Tuesday would make performing an abortion at any stage of pregnancy a felony punishable by 10 to 99 years or life in prison for the provider. The only exception would be when the woman’s health is at serious risk. Women seeking or undergoing abortions wouldn’t be punished.

Rep. Terri Collins, the bill’s sponsor, said she believes the measure reflects the beliefs of the majority of the state electorate.

“I’ve heard from lots of women in the state who are extremely pro-life, and they’re very supportive,” Collins said.

Ivey acknowledged Wednesday that the measure may be unenforceable in the short term. The law is set to go into effect six months after being signed, but supporters expect it to be blocked by lower courts as they fight toward the Supreme Court.

Abortion rights advocates vowed swift legal action.

“We vowed to fight this dangerous abortion ban every step of the way and we meant what we said. We haven’t lost a case in Alabama yet and we don’t plan to start now. We will see Gov. Ivey in court,” said Staci Fox, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast.

One mile from the Alabama Statehouse — down the street from the Governor’s Mansion — sits Montgomery’s only abortion clinic, one of three performing abortions in the state. Because of its location, the clinic sees a stream of patients from Mississippi and the Florida Panhandle because other clinics have closed.

Clinic staff on Wednesday fielded calls from patients, and potential patients, wrongly worried that abortion was now illegal in the state. They were assured abortion remained legal in the state.

“It’s been a lot of fear. A lot of people who are afraid they can’t get their procedure,” said Kari Crowe, a clinic employee and escort.