Alabama constitutional amendment would give fetus legal status, end abortion

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An Alabama constitutional amendment proposal would legally define a fetus as a person from the moment of fertilization and would bring an end to abortion in the state.

State Rep. Ed Henry, R-Decatur, sponsored the bill, which is similar to legislation that had already been voted down in Mississippi, Colorado and North Dakota. An Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling in 2012 said the proposed amendment was unconstitutional.

"To me, science makes it clear that it (life) begins at fertilization," Henry said.

The House Health Committee debated but didn’t vote on the amendment.

Brock Boone, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer, called the bill an "attack on women." Boone said the amendment would ban abortion in cases of rape and incest, and could render some forms of birth control the "legal equivalent of homicide."

"Proponents of this bill sound less and less concerned about the well-being of embryos and more and more concerned about hostility toward women," Boone said.

Boone also said during his remarks that the bill made him “ashamed to be from Alabama,” according to the Montgomery Advertiser. Henry responded to Boone saying, “we have open borders and he’s free to leave.”

Dr. Jim Belyeu, an OB/GYN, called a fetus “totally separate” from the mother as he spoke in favor of the bill.

"The mother only contributes the egg and the incubator," Belyeu said.

Republicans didn’t speak on the bill, but two Democrats on the committee, Rep. John Knight and Rep. Peblin Warren, said they hoped supporters would show equal support for other programs that help children.

"I would hope we will be equally as passionate about the 550,000 children on Medicaid," Knight said. "We've got to be passionate about taking care of the children who are here, and I don't see that same passion."

If the House and the Senate approve the bill, Alabamians would vote on the amendment in November.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.