D190626 state of state

State legislators whose districts include part of Morgan County discuss issues during the State of the State Forum at Sykes Place on Tuesday. [JERONIMO NISA/DECATUR DAILY]

State Rep. Terri Collins on Tuesday said she would prefer a law that excludes rape and incest instead of the law she sponsored that imposes a near-total ban on abortion, and which was signed into law last month.

The Decatur Republican said she views the law that was passed as providing a more direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, a 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision generally preventing states from banning abortion until after the fetus is viable.

“We believe it has a chance to get to the court because it has the same wording as Roe v. Wade,” Collins said. “I believe that’s why you saw such media coverage about it from opponents and proponents. Everybody thought, ‘This one might really be the one they (Supreme Court justices) hear.’ The rest of the laws don’t address the question, 'Is that baby in the womb a person?'”

Collins said she wants a decision on the “heartbeat” issue, “and then states have their own laws governing that.”

As written, the law takes effect Nov. 15. Planned Parenthood, in coordination with the American Civil Liberties Union and other parties, last week filed a motion in their pending lawsuit against the state seeking to block enforcement of the law.

The case is in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, before District Judge Myron Thompson.

“He never rules in our favor on any of those pro-life cases, but that was the whole point, to make it all of the way (to the Supreme Court),” Collins said.

State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said the bill wasn’t written to become law.

“It’s a vehicle to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to see if the original Roe v. Wade stands up,” Orr said. “Science and all that we know about the fetus and womb has changed tremendously since 1973.”

Orr said the state Legislature’s legal department assured him no one who becomes pregnant through rape or incest will get stuck without a solution during the legal fight.

“I asked Legal whether the Alabama law would go into effect at 12:01 a.m. the next day if the court upholds the law, and they said no,” Orr said. “You will see this coming from a long way off.”

Collins said if the law is ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court, she expects to present a bill to amend the legislation to allow abortion in cases of rape and incest.

But, she said, the recently passed legislation had to be stricter than other states' new anti-abortion laws to gain traction in the courts. Abortion opponents are hopeful Roe v. Wade can be overturned as the Supreme Court becomes more conservative with the appointments of President Donald Trump.

The law makes it a crime “for any person to intentionally perform or attempt to perform an abortion” at any stage in pregnancy, except to avert death or “serious health risk.” Performing an abortion is a Class A felony, punishable by up to 99 years in prison.

In its brief it filed Friday seeking an injunction, Planned Parenthood argued the law is "the State’s latest — and most egregious — effort in a protracted campaign to eliminate abortion in Alabama, irrespective of the impact this would have on Alabamians’ health and well-being, constitutional rights, and ability to autonomously pursue their own values, beliefs, visions, and opportunities for their futures."

The legislation brought national attention to Collins.

She said at Tuesday morning’s State of the State breakfast, sponsored by the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, that she received some nasty emails and text-message threats, but chose not to report them to authorities.

“I deleted most of that pretty quickly,” Collins said. “A lot of the national media showed up when we passed it. It’s like any media deal. Things leveled out after about a week and, when I stopped talking to any national media, it really went away.

“It kind of went the same way among the supporters. In Alabama it was a popular thing to do and there were a lot of questions about the issues of rape and incest.”

bayne.hughes@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2432. Twitter @DD_BayneHughes.

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