Brought forward by conservative lawmakers and signed into law by its governor, the southern US state’s “Human Life Protection Act” makes no exemptions for victims of incest or rape. Doctors who attempt to carry out terminations will face 10 years in prison, while doctors who perform the procedure could be given a 99-year sentence.
Here’s how it compares to laws already in effect around the world.
Where abortion is banned
However, access to the procedure varies in each US state. Most states restrict abortion after a specific point during pregnancy, known as a gestational limit, that typically varies from 20 to 28 weeks. Seven states and Washington D.C. do not set gestational limits on abortion.
In countries where abortion is illegal, exceptions may be made for a variety of cases, ranging from the victims of rape and incest to no exceptions at all.
Like Alabama, in countries such as Brunei, Guatemala, Libya and Syria, abortion laws do not make exceptions for cases of incest or rape, but do allow terminations to save the woman’s life.
In Qatar and Niger, abortion is only permitted in cases of fetal impairment or if the woman’s life or health is in danger.
Across Mexico, abortion is nearly entirely illegal, however, all states make an exception in the case of rape, while some states provide the procedure in cases of fetal impairment or for the physical or mental health of the woman.
Countries with more liberal laws include Finland, India and Japan, where provisions for abortion are made not only in cases of rape or risk to the woman’s health, but also on socioeconomic grounds.
As in the case of Northern Ireland, women in Alabama seeking access to abortion services in the state may eventually need to cross state borders.
However, they likely won’t be able to travel to neighboring Mississippi and Georgia, just two of a growing list of states who have enacted, or have proposed, bills to ban abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy — known as “heartbeat bills” — this year alone.
Like Alabama, doctors in Nicaragua also face prison time for performing abortions — up to six years for performing abortions, according to Human Rights Watch. They can also be disqualified from practicing medicine for two to 10 years.
Women in Nicaragua seeking abortions also face imprisonment, while the Alabama law says it will not punish women.
What happens next
It is impossible to predict how, and when, a challenge to US abortion law might be received. Abortion rights activists are worried, however, that the next time a serious challenge to Roe v. Wade is heard, the law could be repealed — which could make abortion illegal in the US.
Studies show that banning abortion access (or funding to access) doesn’t stop abortions from happening. Instead, it drives people underground.
According to the reproductive rights think tank Guttmacher Institute, abortion rates in countries where the procedure is highly restricted and where it is broadly legal are similar.