A weekly window on the American political scene hosted by the Monitor's politics editors.

Alabama bill marks new phase of abortion battle

Mickey Welsh/The Montgomery Advertiser/AP
Bianca Cameron-Schwiesow, Kari Crowe and Margeaux Hartline (left to right), dressed as handmaids, take part in a protest against HB314, the abortion ban bill, at the Alabama State House in Montgomery April 17.

Dear reader:
 
On Tuesday, Alabama’s legislature voted to outlaw abortion in their state. The bill, which the governor signed into law today, includes a penalty of up to 99 years in prison for doctors who perform abortions, at any stage of pregnancy. The only exceptions are when the life of the mother is at risk or the fetus has a “lethal anomaly.”
 
The ACLU has already announced it plans to challenge the law in court – and that’s the point. Alabama’s legislators envision it as a possible vehicle for overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
 
Given the Supreme Court’s new conservative majority, many court-watchers believe Roe’s days may be numbered. As a result, there’s been a flurry of abortion legislation in the states. Conservative states like Georgia have passed “heartbeat bills” that would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, typically around six weeks. Liberal states like New York have tried to codify Roe’s protections into state law.
 
To sort through all this, we recently launched a new series on abortion. In the opening piece, Jessica Mendoza looked at the extent to which Americans’ views on the issue correspond with and have perhaps even shaped our partisan divide. This week, Samantha Laine Perfas tackled some common misperceptions surrounding abortion.
 
It’s interesting to note that public opinion on abortion hasn’t changed much over the past few decades, even as it has shifted notably on other hot-button cultural issues, such as gay marriage. Overall, a majority of Americans continue to believe abortion should be legal, but with restrictions.
What might change is how much of a priority the issue becomes for voters. Already, Democratic presidential candidates are pouncing on the Alabama bill: “Alabama’s backdoor abortion ban is an unconstitutional attack on women – an attack happening all across America,” tweeted Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren today.
 
One thing is clear: “Ending Roe won’t end abortion in America – or the fight over abortion,” as the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Dan Horn puts it . It would simply shift the battle to Congress and to the states. “If Roe goes away, laws that previously would have been rejected by the courts will have real consequences, not only for pregnant women, but for politicians, too,” Mr. Horn writes. Which means the abortion wars may be about to enter an entirely new phase.
 
Let us know what you’re thinking at csmpolitics@csmonitor.com.

Why We Wrote This

The recent flurry of legislation in the states reflects a widespread anticipation that Roe v Wade may be overturned. But that won’t be the end of the abortion wars.

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