MONTGOMERY — The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning voted 7-2 on party lines to give a favorable report as amended to HB 314, the bill sponsored by State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) that is aimed at getting the U.S. Supreme Court to re-examine Roe v. Wade on the basis of personhood.
The bill as passed by the House last week only would have banned all abortion except when the life of the mother is in danger. However, the Senate committee tacked on an amendment by State Sen. Tom Whatley (R-Auburn) adding exceptions for rape and incest.
Collins and State Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville), who is carrying the bill in the Senate, argued that adding exceptions for rape and incest takes away from the legal challenge the bill is trying to mount, as the question at hand is whether the baby in the womb is a person and should have rights as such, regardless of how that baby was conceived.
Whatley’s amendment was passed in a contested voice vote, with Judiciary Chairman Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) denying a request for a roll call vote after he declared the “yeas” prevailed on the amendment vote. It was unclear if the motion to adopt the amendment would have carried on a roll call vote.
State Sen. Larry Stutts (R-Tuscumbia), who is a doctor of obstetrics and gynecology, told Yellowhammer News he was a “nay” vote on the amendment. Most other senators slipped out of the back of the committee room after the meeting without speaking to the press.
When asked by Yellowhammer News how he voted by voice on the Whatley amendment, State Sen. Will Barfoot (R-Pike Road), also the vice chair of the committee, simply said, “The voice vote passed.”
Whatley’s amendment will need to survive a roll call vote by the full Senate before being tacked onto the bill.
Speaking in the committee about his amendment, Whatley said he had really struggled, feeling conflicted, during the public hearing.
“[T]he child didn’t choose who the parents are and how they were conceived,” Whatley said, alluding to the rape and incest exceptions. “It’s not the child’s fault. They didn’t choose that manner, they didn’t choose their parents.”
However, he added there were other issues besides abortion and “reproductive health” that the bill still brings up. Whatley called these other issues “not as important” but ones that he felt needed to be addressed regardless.
“I know what we’re trying to do here to get to the Supreme Court, and I think it’s dangerous to do things like that,” Whatley remarked. “I also like to count, Mr. Chairman, and I believe this bill will not survive the Senate without an amendment — and that’s the legislative process. We’ve heard today, ‘No amendments, no amendments.’ However, that’s the process.”
Two of the committee’s four Democrats did not attend the meeting. The absent duo were Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) and State Sen. Malika Sanders-Fortier (D-Selma).
State Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison (D-Birmingham), being careful not to mention him by name or make headlines of her own, expressed during the meeting that she agreed with the general sentiment expressed last Tuesday by State Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) when he was infamously speaking about what he views as the difference between being “pro-life” and “pro-birth.”
She opined that if the state does not totally monetarily “support [children] after birth, then we really don’t value life.”
“Once you’re here, we could care less — fend for yourself,” she continued.
This came after she unsuccessfully presented an amendment that would have mandated the state of Alabama pay for prenatal and medical care for all infants up to the age three, as well as all medical care (including mental health care) relating to or stemming from the pregnancy for mothers as determined by their personal doctor.
You can follow a live tweet thread of the Senate Judiciary Committee public hearing and debate here.
The bill is set to be debated and considered Thursday on the Senate floor.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn