By Mike Cason
The Alabama Senate delayed until next week a vote on a bill to ban abortion after an uproar over a key amendment.
The Senate abruptly removed a rape and incest exception from the bill without allowing a roll call vote on that decision.
The move shocked Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, who had just said at the Senate mic that he wanted a roll call vote on every question concerning the abortion bill.
Singleton and other Democratic senators strongly objected to Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, who presides over the Senate, for his quick gavel on tabling the rape and incest amendment on a voice vote, meaning there is no recorded vote.
Ainsworth said he followed Senate rules.
As that disagreement simmered, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, moved to delay a vote on the abortion bill until next week.
"We can come back in here on Tuesday and have extended debate and make that final decision," Marsh said.
Marsh supports the rape and incest amendment and said he expects a vote on it next week when the Senate reconsiders the bill.
The bill, which passed the House last week, is intended to trigger a challenge to the Roe v. Wade decision.
Doctors would be charged with a felony for performing or attempting to perform an abortion. The woman would not be liable.
The bill would allow abortions to protect the woman from serious health risks.
The bill passed the House of Representatives by a 74-3 vote last week, with the Republican majority supporting it. Democrats opposed the bill and offered amendments but most did not participate in the final vote.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill on Wednesday and added the rape and incest amendment that was removed by the Senate today.
A Republican-backed bill would make it a felony to perform an abortion in Alabama, a move intended to trigger a challenge to Roe v. Wade.
After the Senate adjourned, Singleton said Ainsworth gave him and other senators no chance to react to the move to strip the rape and incest exception from the bill.
"He's just supposed to sit and observe the Senate and go by the rules and that's all I expect from his is fairness," Singleton said. "And if he's going to be like that then we can start to shutting this whole darn Senate down. And we will definitely do that. That was unfair.
"You've got the super majority. You can pass any bill that you want. You've got 27 men over on the other side ready to tell women what they can do with their bodies. You can do that if you want to. You don't have to procedurally just try to run over us."
Ainsworth defended his actions. He said the motion by Sen. Clyde Chambliss to table the rape and incest amendment is not debatable under Senate rules. He cited a Senate rule that says it takes three or more senators to require a roll call vote.
"There was a motion made to table," Ainsworth said. "It's not debatable. There was not three hands raised. So, we're moving on."
Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile, told Ainsworth that Singleton had made it clear he wanted roll call votes.
"I know you all are for this bill and I know this bill is going to pass," Figures said. "You're going to get your way. But at least treat us fairly and do it the right way. That's all that I ask. That's all that my Democratic colleagues ask."
Marsh said after the disagreement, he wanted the Senate to "set the reset button" on the bill by taking the weekend to think about it.
"Let people go home, talk to their constituents and come back," Marsh said. "And quite honestly, next Tuesday when we come back, everybody has the ability to offer amendments at that time, could offer the same amendment that was just stripped off. So, we're at a place that people I believe will feel they continue to be part of this process, as they should be on such an important issue as this."
Marsh did not fault Ainsworth for the quick gavel.
"I believe the lieutenant governor followed procedure," Marsh said. "I think that people maybe had their guard down a little bit. Maybe didn't expect a voice vote. But he has every right to do that and that's what he did and that's what happened."
But Singleton said it's important that votes are recorded on the abortion bill.
"I know it's a non-debatable motion. I know the rules. But at least allow us to be able to vote on it. They just didn't want to be on the record voting on it, to strip that amendment off the bill.
"I want the people of the state of Alabama to know how we vote. I think the people have a right to know how we vote."
(c)2019 Alabama Media Group, Birmingham