Here’s what you need to know about the chilling new abortion legislation

Elisabeth Moss as Offred in The Handmaid's Tale
(Image credit: Channel 4)

This week saw the passing of the most restrictive abortion ban in the US, with Alabama lawmakers making history on Tuesday for passing a bill that outlaws abortion in almost all cases - including rape and incest. It’s a near-total ban, with the only exemption being when the woman’s health is in life-threatening danger.

And who voted to pass it? 25 men, with the four women in the Alabama senate all being in the minority to vote against the bill.

But Alabama is no isolated case, coming in a chilling series of proposed restrictions to women’s reproductive rights across America, introducing the fetal heartbeat bill, with Georgia’s ban being passed just days before.

There are reportedly sixteen other states seeking to impose new restrictions on abortion, restrictions that actually echo those in Northern Ireland.

Pro-Choice campaigners via The Guardian pointed out that under a piece of Victorian legislation - the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861 - anyone procuring an abortion in Northern Ireland, whether medical staff or pregnant women, can face life imprisonment.


Here’s what you need to know about the new abortion legislation…

Alabama abortion law

The near blanket ban in Alabama is a proposed law making abortion illegal in almost all cases, including rape and incest. The only reported exemption is when a woman's life is at risk. Getting an abortion could lead to imprisonment and even doctors who perform the surgery could reportedly face up to 99 years in prison.

The law could reportedly be blocked in court, but with an appeals process could be brought before the Supreme Court, which due to the conservative majority, could criminalise abortion.


Georgia abortion law

Georgia criminalised abortion this week, changing the state law from outlawing abortion after 20 weeks to outlawing abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.

The proposed bill in question is the fetal heartbeat bill, deeming an abortion illegal as soon as a heartbeat can be detected. The ban, similar to Alabama's, would ban almost all abortions unless the mother is at serious risk.


What is the fetal heartbeat bill?

The fetal heartbeat bill is part of the proposed abortion legislation in the US. As its name suggests, the bill determines that an abortion becomes illegal once the fetus' heartbeat can be detected, reasoning that a heartbeat makes it a human life. Anti-bill campaigners however have been quick to point out that a fetal heartbeat can often be detected before a woman finds out that she is pregnant.


Which US states are looking to ban abortion?

Abortion ban bills have already passed in Alabama, Ohio, Mississippi and Georgia, with the proposed bills failing in Arkansas, Iowa, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Wyoming (the bill in Kentucky has also been temporarily blocked). Other states that are moving to restrict abortion laws include Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.

We will continue to update this story.

Jenny Proudfoot
Features Editor

Jenny Proudfoot is an award-winning journalist, specialising in lifestyle, culture, entertainment, international development and politics. She has worked at Marie Claire UK for seven years, rising from intern to Features Editor and is now the most published Marie Claire writer of all time. She was made a 30 under 30 award-winner last year and named a rising star in journalism by the Professional Publishers Association.