by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, April 16 (Xinhua) -- A new near-total abortion ban in the U.S. state of Alabama signals a conservative tilt in many parts of the United States, at a time when people on the left and right are increasingly divided, experts said.
On Wednesday, Kay Ivey, the state's governor, signed a new law that would ban all abortions, except in cases in which the mother's life is in danger, in the latest challenge to the 1973 landmark Supreme Court case that ruled that women have a right to have an abortion.
The Alabama law would make it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion, and even victims of rape and incest would not be permitted to terminate their pregnancies.
The ban is the latest in a trend toward more restrictive abortion policies, with the U.S. states of Kentucky, Ohio, Georgia and Mississippi recently creating similar bans, hoping the U.S. Supreme Court will strike down the current law of the land, which considers many abortions to be a woman's right.
Some believe this is a reaction toward recent moves in states such as New York and Virginia to relax restrictions on late-term abortions.
A May 2018 Gallup poll found that 60 percent of the U.S. people believe abortion should be legal during the first trimester, although merely 13 percent believed women should be allowed to terminate their pregnancy during the third trimester.
A SHARP MOVE TO THE RIGHT
During his State of the Union Address a few months ago, President Donald Trump called on lawmakers to ban late-term abortions, in a clear gesture aimed at garnering the support of his evangelical and conservative base.
Mostly for religious reasons, conservatives and evangelicals -- an important wing among GOP voters -- have opposed abortion rights, as the practice runs contrary to their beliefs. The issue has always been a political and social powder keg, and conservatives have challenged the law numerous times.
"The legislation is a sign of how some parts of America have moved sharply to the right, encouraged by President Trump and his conservative Supreme Court nominees," Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua.
"Alabama lawmakers are capitalizing on strong pro-life sentiment in their state to say they don't like the legal status quo and prefer a world where there are very few abortions. That opinion reflects strong religious viewpoints within the state," West said.
DEMOCRATS, REPUBLICANS WEIGH IN
A number of Democrats opposed the Alabama law, with House Leader Nancy Pelosi saying the law cannot "be allowed to stand."
Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted Wednesday that the "abortion bans in Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Mississippi are appalling attacks on women's lives and fundamental freedoms."
Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders tweeted on Wednesday that abortion is a "constitutional right," saying "the attack on women's rights is happening in Alabama, Georgia and across the country, and we must fight it everywhere."
Even famed U.S. televangelist Pat Robertson, who is normally anti-abortion, said this week that Alabama's law goes too far.
Some Republicans have also come out against the law, such as top House Republican Kevin McCarthy, who believes that exceptions should be made in certain cases.
"In my whole political career, I also believed in (cases of) rape, incest or the life of the mother, there were exceptions," he said, explaining that this is the GOP's official stance on the issue.
Overall, Republicans avoided commenting on the new law, except for a handful, as many did not want to risk political fallout so close to the 2020 elections, U.S. media reported.
CONSERVATIVES' LONG-TERM GOALS
Ending legal abortion has been a long-term goal for evangelical and social conservatives for decades now, experts said.
"In Alabama you have a perfect storm of very socially conservative state legislators and a governor who think they're doing the Lord's work, and don't think there will be any real political risk to them for doing this," said Christopher Galdieri, assistant professor at Saint Anselm College.
"This reflects what social conservatives see as an opportunity, now that Anthony Kennedy has been replaced on the Supreme Court with the far more conservative Brett Kavanaugh, and because so many Trump judges have been appointed throughout the federal courts," Galdieri said.
"In Alabama and several other states, like Missouri and Ohio, abortion bans are being passed in the hope that they'll be appealed to the Supreme Court and become the opportunity for the court to fully overturn Roe v. Wade," Galdieri said, referring to the 1973 landmark case.
"What you are seeing is people wanting to have a test case on what are the limits of (the current abortion laws) in front of the Supreme Court," Republican strategist and TV news personality Ford O'Connell told Xinhua.
West said: "The new law gives the U.S. Supreme Court the opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade and make abortion law far more restrictive."