Alabama Governor Robert Bentley [official website] on Wednesday signed into law [press release] a bill [HB 18 text, PDF] that bans abortions [JURIST news archive] after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The bill contains no exceptions for cases of rape or incest, but permits an abortion if necessary to prevent the death of or serious risk of injury to the woman. The bill also requires physicians to report instances of abortions to the Department of Public Health [official website] and requires the department to issue an annual public report containing abortion-related statistics. Physicians who perform abortions in violation of the law will face criminal charges, injunctions, as well as actions for actual damages brought by the both the mother and father of the unborn child. Current Alabama state law permits abortions [Reuters report] prior to the stage of fetal viability, usually between 24 and 26 weeks gestation. The Alabama Senate and House of Representatives [official websites] handily approved the bill [JURIST report] in early June. Bentley said in a statement, "I believe that life begins at conception and I signed this bill to further commit my promise to protect the life of an unborn child." The law will go into effect on September 1, 2011.
Last week, the Iowa House of Representatives [official website] approved a bill [HF-1736 text, PDF] that would effectively ban abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy [JURIST report], making it the most restrictive abortion law in the country. The Obama administration took a stand earlier this month against a controversial Indiana law that prevents health care providers with abortion services from receiving Medicaid funds, saying the law violates federal law [JURIST report]. Several other states have acted recently to tighten restrictions on abortions. Last month, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy websites] filed a lawsuit challenging a South Dakota law [JURIST reports] requiring women to seek counseling at a pregnancy center and wait three days before obtaining an abortion. Earlier that week, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton [official website] vetoed a pair of bills [JURIST report] that restricted state funding for abortions and banned them altogether after 20 weeks. Also in May, Texas Governor Rick Perry [official website] signed into law a bill that requires women seeking an abortion to first get a sonogram [JURIST report]. Multiple states have acted to ban abortions after 20 weeks, when some studies suggest a fetus can begin feeling pain, including Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Kansas and Idaho [JURIST reports].