The Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved a bill Wednesday that would require physicians to check for a fetal heartbeat before and abortion and prohibit abortions if a heartbeat is detected.
SB9 from Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) follows a laundry list of controversial bills filed by the Senator and defies previous Supreme Court rulings, which overturned similar legislation in other states. Allen’s bill makes no exception for cases of rape or incest, only in the instance of mortal threat to the mother.
The bill further provides penalties for physicians who defy the law making the offense a Class C felony that carries a fine of $15,000 and up to 10 years in prison.
Supporters of the bill alleged that studies have shown fetuses are more developed than previously believed, with one suggesting that fetuses are capable of sustaining memories. Opponents suggested that, because heartbeats are detectable as early as five weeks into a pregnancy, the legislation would prohibit many women from attaining an abortion. Further, opponents questioned the state’s ability to afford the lengthy legal battle that would likely ensue as a result of the bill’s passage.
The committee passed the legislation with only Sen. William Beasley (D-Clayton) objecting.
A similar bill has been filed in the House of Representatives by Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur)
The committee also approved a bill from Rep. April Weaver (R-Brierfield) which would out law the already illegal practice of selling fetal tissue and parts. Again, Beasley was the only dissenting voice on the committee.
Both bills will now go before the full Senate.