Alabama "Personhood" Law Could Ban All Abortions

Three new bills in Alabama would redefine "person" as "any human being from the moment of fertilization or the functional equivalent thereof" — and require that all uses of the word "person" in the state constitution be accompanied by "all humans from the moment of fertilization." In addition to no doubt upping the state's printing budget, the bills could have the effect of banning all abortions.

According to The American Independent, the bills, introduced by Republican state Sen. Phil Williams and Rep. John Merrill, were introduced last week and are currently in the Health Committees of the state Senate and House, respectively. The anti-abortion intent of the Senate bill is clear from a statement issued by Personhood USA, in which Williams states,

We must protect all Alabama children. At the same time we have to send a message that Alabamians value the sanctity of life. Every heartbeat is as important as the next.

Of course, fetuses don't actually have heartbeats until several weeks after "the moment of fertilization," but Williams may not be all that concerned with specifics. Also in the statement, Ben Dupre, an attorney with the anti-choice Foundation for Moral Law, compares anti-abortion activism to the fight for civil rights:

America used to define the meaning of ‘person' along racial lines; now we draw the line at the womb. Personhood legislation finally gives equal protection of the laws to the unborn as well as the born, and from the first moment of human life.

Unlike recent legislation such as the Ohio "heartbeat bill," which is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the Alabama bills aim to exploit an alleged loophole in that decision. Dupre pointed the American Independent to the following language:

The appellee and certain amici argue that the fetus is a person within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. . . . If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment. Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 156-57 (1973).

I asked Jordan Goldberg of the Center for Reproductive Rights whether there was in fact a loophole in Roe v. Wade that the bill could target. She said,

There's no way to read Roe v. Wade or Planned Parenthood v. Casey or any of the abortion jurisprudence to support their argument. What they are trying to do is force their vision of when life begins on all the people of Alabama. [...] What the court has said in numerous decisions is that you cannot make the decision on when life begins for other people.

She also clarified that Roe v. Wade did not indicate that simply writing fetal personhood into a law would suddenly make the decision "collapse," and in fact that the decision stated that the fetus was not a person. In sum, Dupre's claim is "factually inaccurate." Still, the Senate bill is apparently supported by 19 of 35 state senators, and the House bill has 31 co-sponsors, according to Dupre. He tells the Independent that this shows the bills are likely to pass.

New Bills In Alabama Would Grant Personhood At The ‘Moment Of Fertilization' [American Independent]
Historic Personhood Bills And Amendments Introduced In Alabama Legislature [Personhood USA]