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Alabama Senate tables abortion bill after uproar on chamber floor

By
Nicholas Sakelaris
Protesters on both sides of the abortion issue demonstrate outside the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., on January 19. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Protesters on both sides of the abortion issue demonstrate outside the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., on January 19. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

May 9 (UPI) -- A terse disagreement on the floor of the Alabama Senate Thursday led lawmakers to table a controversial abortion bill until at least next week.

The bill would create a near-total ban on abortion in the state and pose a legal challenge to the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized the medical procedure nationwide.

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As Senate lawmakers considered the proposal Thursday, Sen. Clyde Chambliss abruptly moved to strip an amendment from the bill that allows abortion in cases of rape or incest. Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, the Senate's president, quickly sustained the removal -- without putting the motion up for a full floor vote. The move angered Senate Democrats -- particularly Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, who said he wanted roll call votes for every question.

"He's just supposed to sit and observe the Senate and go by the rules and that's all I expect from him is fairness," Singleton said. "If he's going to be like that, then we can start to shut this whole darn Senate down."

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"At least treat us fairly and do it the right way," said Democratic Sen. Vivian Davis Figures. "That's all I ask ... that's all women in this state ask."

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Ainsworth said he followed Senate rules.

Some Republicans broke ranks to join the protest, including Senate judiciary committee chairman Cam Ward, who threatened to filibuster if the amendments weren't given a fair chance.

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After the uproar Thursday, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh moved to delay the bill until next week when the chamber reconvenes.

If passed, the law would make it a felony to perform or attempt an abortion. The House passed the bill by a vote of 74-3 last week, though many Democrats didn't participate in protest. It would only allow abortions if the mother's life is in danger. Wednesday, the Senate judiciary committee approved the amendments excepting rape and incest.

Sponsors of the bill hope it will challenge the Roe vs. Wade decision 46 years ago that legalized abortion in the United States.

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