Alabama Democrats Kill Bill to Define Unborn Baby as a Person and Ban Abortions

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Apr 22, 2016   |   6:43PM   |   Montgomery, Alabama

Alabama Democrats managed to block a bill on Thursday that would have recognized unborn babies as people in the state constitution.

The bill would have defined a person as “any human being from the moment of fertilization” in the Alabama Constitution. A state House committee passed the bill earlier this month. If it had passed in the legislature, the amendment would have been put on the ballot for voters to approve.

Alabama state Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, sponsored the amendment. He said the bill probably would not end abortions in the state right away, but it could set a precedent for the future.

“I just believe it’s not a direct attack on abortion,” Henry said after the vote. “But if Alabamians believe life begins at conception, then it does cause abortion to be in conflict with our values.”

On Thursday, House Democrats filibustered the bill until the chamber adjourned for the day, according to the Associated Press. The legislative session will end in five days, and the bill is unlikely to come to the floor again, the report states.

“There’s no time,” Henry said Thursday. “It’s essentially dead.”

During a committee hearing in March, Dr. Jim Belyeu, a pro-life OB-GYN, testified in support of the bill, saying the unborn child is a “totally separate” entity from the mother.

“The baby initiates the process of implantation,” Belyeu said. “Scientifically, pregnancy has been long recognized at beginning at fertilization, so anything that would prevent implantation would be considered abortion.”

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However, ACLU lawyer Brock Boone spoke out against the bill, calling it an “attack on women” and saying it would ban certain types of birth control as well as abortion, according to the news report.

Several other states, including Missouri and Oklahoma are considering similar measures to define personhood in their state constitutions in an effort to protect unborn babies from abortions.

While the intentions are good, the reality is that these measures are unlikely to become law. Because of the current political climate and the precedents set in the U.S. Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, courts would almost certainly strike down the measures. The challenges also can result in states being forced to pay abortion activists’ attorneys huge settlement fees.

Many pro-life groups believe a key strategy to ending legalized abortion is overturning Roe v. Wade. However, the current Supreme Court justices are highly unlikely to do so, especially after the unexpected death of pro-life Justice Antonin Scalia. Three of the justices, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and John Roberts, likely would vote to overturn Roe and return abortion laws back to the authority of the states; but five of the other justices almost certainly would not.