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Alabama Passes "Fetal Pain" Anti-Abortion Bill, Rejects Exceptions For Rape and Incest

Saturday, 11 June 2011 04:21 By Tanya Somanader, ThinkProgress | Report
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The Alabama GOP marked a successful week in regressive legislation. Gov. Robert Bentley (R) signed the nation’s toughest immigration bill into law yesterday, requiring local police to detain suspected undocumented immigrants and Alabama schools to collect student citizenship information. The GOP-led state Senate then rounded out the day by passing a radical anti-abortion bill that bans anyone from performing abortion after 20 weeks — an act that would punish the doctor with “one to 10 years in prison.”

State Sen. Scott Beason (R), known previously for advising politicians to “empty the clip” to stop undocumented immigrants, ushered the bill through the Senate. Defending the extreme restriction on the basis of “fetal pain,” Beason — who received a degree in geology — definitively declared that “there’s no doubt” a fetus experiences pain at 20 weeks:

”It’s clear that a baby at 20 weeks experiences pain. There’s no doubt about that,” said Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, who pushed for the bill’s approval in the Senate.

”We’re trying to get it back to the point where once a baby feels pain, there can be no abortions,” Beason said.

Those with an actual medical degree, however, have expressed significant doubt that a fetus’ pain perception functions at 20 weeks. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, “The fetus’s higher pain pathways are not yet fully developed and functional” before the third trimester. Even a fellow Republican lawmaker in Kansas noted assertions like Beason’s are “based on false research” and “untruths.”

Unwavering in their ignorance, the Alabama Senate even used this “false research” to reject an amendment that would have allowed exceptions to the 20-week ban “to preserve a woman’s health or ‘where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.’” State Sen. Linda Coleman (D) viewed the failure as “literally a slap in the face of all women.” But Beason instructed sexual assault victims that they have plenty of time to deal with their situation earlier:

Beason in an interview replied that someone impregnated because of rape or incest still could get an abortion before reaching 20 weeks of pregnancy.

”That’s five months,” Beason said. ”I don’t think it’s that complicated.”

The lack of both knowledge and compassion needed to pass this bill — however astounding — is shared by a remarkably high number of Republican lawmakers across the country. Nebraska was the first in the nation to pass a fetal pain bill, with KansasFloridaArkansasMinnesota,OklahomaGeorgiaIndiana, Iowa, and Kentucky considering similar bills. The Alabama house passed the Senate’s changes in a 70-20 vote to give the bill final legislative approval. If Bentley signs it, the 20-week ban — like the immigration bill — will take effect Sept. 1.

Tanya Somanader

Tanya Somanader is a Reporter/Blogger for Think Progress and The Progress Report at American Progress. Prior to joining ThinkProgress, Tanya was a staff member in the Office of Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) since 2007 working on issues ranging from foreign policy and defense to civil rights and social policy.

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