Bill to Define Person as 'Human Being From Moment of Fertilization' Could Outlaw All Abortions in Alabama

A child touches a pregnant mother's stomach. | (Photo: Reuters/Regis Duvignau)

A bill seeking to legally define a person as "any human being from the moment of fertilization or the functional equivalent thereof" could focus the abortion debate on the issue of when life begins.

The bill, called the Personhood Amendment and sponsored by Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, was approved by the Health Committee in the Alabama House of Representatives last Wednesday and was expected to be on the floor of the House today.

Co-sponsor of the bill, State Representative Jack W. Williams of Mobile, told NBC4i that it would allow Alabama voters to note in the law that life begins at conception through a referendum vote on the November ballot. If the bill becomes law, says Williams, it would ban abortion at any time during pregnancy with no rape or health exceptions.

Williams expects however that amendments will be made to the bill, to address pregnancies resulting from rape or those that pose life-threatening complications for the mother.

If the bill is enacted it would make Alabama the first state in the U.S. to have a total ban on abortions, though a legal challenge in federal court would be expected.

"I feel very personally. I'm all against abortion completely. I've lost a daughter myself I know how precious life is. I just don't see how anyone can at four months abort a child and throw it in the garbage can when we'll spend $1 million on a 4 1/2 month old preemie," Williams told NBC4i.

Reacting to the bill however, Susan Watson of the ACLU of Alabama said in a statement that it is doomed to fail.

"The Personhood Amendment could essentially ban all abortions and some forms of birth control. We may not all agree about abortion or the question of when life begins, but we should agree that these personal decisions should remain between a woman and her family and her faith. That is why, time and again, when voters have been asked to weigh in on such extreme restrictions, they have voted to protect women's access to reproductive health care. Similar proposals have failed by a wide margin every time it has been on the ballot," she said.

While supporters of the bill presented it as anti-abortion legislation at a public hearing last month Henry said, according to the Montgomery Adviser, that he didn't see it as a "direct attack on abortion."

"I just believe it's not a direct attack on abortion," he said. "But if Alabamians believe life begins at conception, then it does cause abortion to be in conflict with our values."

The adviser noted that language of the bill is identical to a measure put on the ballot in Mississippi in 2011 that was defeated due to claims about its potential effects on birth control and medical treatment of pregnant women.

Voters in North Dakota and Colorado also scuttled similar amendments in 2014. Henry explained that the Personhood Bill could lead to restrictions on some birth control methods and in-vitro fertilizations. He also expects litigation if voters approve it.

"I believe in life, and protecting it, no matter if we're going to be sued," he said.

Contact: Follow Leonardo Blair on Twitter: @leoblair Follow Leonardo Blair on Facebook: LeoBlairChristianPost

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