Alabama’s attorney general became the most prominent Republican official yet to suggest that pregnant women could be prosecuted for taking abortion pills, saying that a state ban targeting those who facilitate abortions does not preclude the state from seeking to penalize women under other laws. The comment reflects a simmering divide within the antiabortion movement, which has long sought to treat women seeking abortions as “victims” and not as targets for punishment, reports the Washington Post. After the June Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, movement leaders promised that women had nothing to fear even as Republican leaders in more than a dozen states in the South and Midwest moved aggressively to enact strict abortion bans, though almost always targeting providers rather than patients.
Alabama’s near-total ban, which took effect soon after the Supreme Court ruling, exempts abortion seekers from prosecution, including penalties only for those who help people obtain abortions. Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office suggests that pregnant women could still be prosecuted under a separate 2006 state law that has been used to punish women for drug consumption during pregnancy. The abortion ban “does not provide an across-the-board exemption from all criminal laws, including the chemical-endangerment law — which the Alabama Supreme Court has affirmed and reaffirmed protects unborn children,” Marshall’s office said. Underscoring the tensions surrounding the issue, a spokesman for Marshall appeared to back away from endorsing prosecution of abortion seekers. “The Attorney General’s beef is with illegal providers, not women,” said Cameron Mixon, Marshall’s deputy communications director.