The big story: Alabama passes near-total abortion ban

Governor Ivey signs the bill into law (CNS)

What happened?

Alabama has passed a near-total ban on abortion, giving it the most restrictive law of any US state. The bill, passed by the state’s Senate 25-6 and signed into law by Governor Kay Ivey, makes it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion. There is a narrow exception for risks to the mother’s life. Transgressing doctors could be punished with up to 99 years in prison. The mother would not be punished. The bill will not take effect for six months, and faces a court challenge.

What pro-lifers said

At the Daily Wire, Matt Walsh wrote: “The fundamental goal of the pro-life movement is to establish and defend the personhood rights of humans in the womb. Alabama has done exactly that. For conservatives, this should be reason to leap for joy and throw a parade.”

But some pro-lifers sounded a note of caution. The pundit Ben Shapiro said on his podcast: “This bill is not going to go into effect, barring the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade, which is not going to happen.” Although more conservative justices have been appointed, Shapiro said it was unlikely that the Supreme Court would vote against the 1973 law which effectively legalised abortion. Other pundits said the bill could even be a tactical error, if it alienated the middle ground.

What pro-choicers said

The backlash was led by celebrities such as the singer Rihanna, who described Alabama’s senators as “idiots”, and the Harry Potter actress Emma Watson, who posted on Instagram: “These laws won’t stop women and pregnant people from having abortions, or from making the best decision for their bodies and families, it will just mean they are forced to do so unsafely and with stigma.” Lady Gaga said it was an “outrage” and a “travesty”.

Some US politicians, while broadly anti-abortion, thought the ban went too far. Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney told CNN: “I’m pro-life, but there ought to be exceptions for rape and incest.” President Donald Trump tweeted that he supported rape and incest exceptions, but added that pro-lifers should be united.