Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed a controversial bill into law on May 15 that outlaws abortion in nearly all cases.
Unless the birth poses a serious health risk to the woman or the foetus has a “lethal anomaly,” doctors who perform abortions could face up to 99 years in prison.
Despite the fact that 77 per cent of Americans support exemptions for victims of rape and incest in the first trimester, a Democrat-backed amendment to add these exemptions to the Alabama bill was defeated by the state’s Republican-controlled Senate.
Governor Ivey said part of the motivation for passing the bill was to provoke the U.S. Supreme Court into overturning the Roe v. Wade decision, which protects abortion rights in the U.S.
“The sponsors of this bill believe that it is time, once again, for the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit this important matter, and they believe this act may bring about the best opportunity for this to occur,” said Governor Ivey.
Because constitutional law takes precedence over state law, the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade that abortion is a constitutional right makes the Alabama bill, as Governor Ivey admits, “unenforceable”.
If legal action against the bill makes its way to the Supreme Court, abortion rights for women across the U.S. could come down to whether or not Chief Justice John Roberts votes with his fellow conservatives, or with liberal supporters of Roe v. Wade.
Justice Roberts is the median judge in the Supreme Court, being the most politically moderate justice. This role, previously occupied by retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, means that Roberts is the key vote in contentious issues.
Curtin University Sexology Professor Dr Lorel Mayberry said that abortion being outlawed as a result of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade would have huge detrimental effects, especially on low-income Americans.
“The outcome of that would be absolutely horrific, and it would affect the people who can least afford it because they would be the least able to travel [abroad to get an abortion],” said Dr Mayberry.