Alabama lawmakers gave final approval on Tuesday to a measure that would ban most abortions in the state. But the Senate’s vote did not immediately outlaw the procedure, and it is far from clear when, or even if, the measure will ultimately take effect.
Here’s a guide to what happened, and what might happen next.
What did Alabama do?
The bill that the Republican-controlled Legislature overwhelmingly approved would prohibit abortions at every stage of pregnancy. It includes an exception for cases where a woman’s health is at “serious” risk, but lawmakers rejected a proposal to add exceptions for cases of rape or incest.
Women who have abortions would not be prosecuted under the measure, but doctors could be charged with a felony and face up to 99 years in prison for performing the procedure.
Now the governor has to make a decision.
The bill now goes to Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, for consideration. She has not said publicly whether she intends to sign the bill into law, but many lawmakers expect her to do so. Even if Governor Ivey wields her veto pen, simple majorities in both the House and Senate can override her decision.
In an email on Tuesday night, a spokeswoman for Governor Ivey said the governor would “withhold comment until she has had a chance to thoroughly review the final version of the bill that passed.”
If the bill becomes law, a countdown begins.
Even if Ms. Ivey signs the bill this week, abortion services would still be available in Alabama for the time being. At the earliest, the measure would take effect six months after the governor’s approval.
Then bet on a race to the courthouse.
Supporters of abortion rights have promised to challenge the measure in court if it becomes law. The legal battle that would follow could stop the restrictions entirely, or at least substantially delay them.
“Alabama politicians will forever live in infamy for this vote, and we will make sure that every woman knows who to hold accountable,” said Staci Fox, the president of Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates. “In the coming days, we will be mounting the fight of our lives — we will take this to court and ensure abortion remains safe and legal.”
The measure’s architects are not just expecting a pitched debate in the courts, they are inviting one. The entire purpose of the law, they have said, is to persuade the United States Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 46-year-old ruling that recognized a constitutional right for a woman to end a pregnancy.
“This bill is about challenging Roe v. Wade and protecting the lives of the unborn, because an unborn baby is a person who deserves love and protection,” said Representative Terri Collins, a Republican who sponsored the legislation.