Senators voted 26-5 to pass the measure, one of a raft of bills proposed by the Republican majority, that would limit access to abortion. Before the bill's passage, abortions could be conducted until the fetus was considered viable, about 24 to 26 weeks into the pregnancy.
The bill would also require doctors who perform abortions to provide a report of each abortion to the Alabama Department of Public Health and compile an annual report of abortions.
Proponents of the bill said the measure, titled the "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act," was inspired by scientific evidence suggesting that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks.
"For a long time the womb was an unknown universe, and I think Roe vs. Wade was based on the idea that so much was not known," said Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale. He said he expected the advancement of biotechnology to eventually push the date of viability to beginning of pregnancy, eventually ending legal abortions.
Supporters of the bill asked for permission to "dialogue" about the measure, allowing proponents of the bill to discuss the bill's merits with each other.
"Alabama will be the leader on pro-life issues," said Sen. Phil Williams, a supporter of the bill, in a dialogue with Sen. Shadrack McGill, R-Scottsboro, also a supporter of the measure.
The Senate rejected an amendment by Sen. Roger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, that would have allowed exceptions for rape and danger to the life of the mother.
After the bill was passed, Senators who voted against the bill protested the rejection of Smitherman's amendment, and against what they considered to be last-minute add-ons to the bill.
"I was prepared to vote ‘yea’ for Senate Bill 18," said Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile. "The way this bill was handled was not right."
The bill is one of a raft of bills limiting abortion rights that were proposed in this legislative session — including a bill that would declare that a fetus is person at the moment of fertilization. That bill, sponsored by Williams, is expected to come to a vote in the House today.
Sponsors of the bills said their intent was to limit abortion as much the courts would allow.
"This is a federal issue as much as it is a state issue," McGill said. He said legislators were doing what they could to "chip away" at abortion.
Senators Del Marsh, R-Anniston, and Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, voted for the bill in a voice vote.
Supporters of the bill said the measure would have prevented about 80 abortions in the last year for which statistics were available.