Alabama Senate passes ban on abortion procedure

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A bill to prohibit a commonly used second-trimester abortion procedure advanced in the Alabama legislature on Tuesday.

Senators voted 30-2 for Republican Sen. Phil Williams' bill to prohibit a procedure called dilation and evacuation, or "D&E." The bill would allow the procedure in the event of a "serious health risk to the mother."

Supporters of a companion House bill at a public hearing last week compared D&E procedures to torture and medieval forms of punishment. The House Health committee voted in favor of the companion bill last week.

Williams said Tuesday that his bill doesn't criminalize mothers and doesn't affect abortion access beyond the specific D&E procedure. Under the bill, only the performing physician would be legally culpable.

"I would prefer we announce to the world that Alabama believes life begins at the moment of conception, and we could end all abortion," Williams said. "This bill doesn't do that."

Democratic Sen. Rodger Smitherman said he doesn't personally support the procedure but is concerned with parents' personal decisions.

"It's not pushing for abortion, it's not agreeing that you ought to do it," Smitherman said. "The root of it is the choice."

Smitherman abstained from the Senate vote.

D&Es, or surgical abortions, are used in the majority of second-trimester procedures, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The ACOG defines second-trimester as after 13 weeks of pregnancy.

Butler's bill does not target medical abortions, which are induced by medication and have higher complication rates than surgical abortions in the second trimester, according to the ACOG.

Under a 2011 law, Alabama bans all abortion after 20 weeks.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a similar bill into law earlier this month. D&E bans in Kansas and Oklahoma have been struck down by state courts.

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