The Alabama state legislature approved a bill Tuesday night that would place harsher restrictions on abortion clinics. The House voted 68-21, agreeing to pass the Women's Health and Safety Act after, earlier that night, the state Senate had voted 21-10 in favor of the bill. The Senate also adopted an amendment to the bill, requiring clinics to tell patients what medications they had received during their stay. Alabama governor, Republican Robert Bentley, a proponent of this legislation, is expected to sign it into law.
The new bill would mandate doctors performing abortion to have hospital admitting privileges in the cities where they perform abortions. Currently, most clinics hire out-of-town physicians to provide abortion procedures, and partner with local doctors who have hospital admitting privileges to provide follow-up care.
Under the bill, abortion clinics would be required to ask any girl under age 16 for the name and age of the person who got her pregnant. If the father is more than two years older, or the girl is younger than 14, the clinic would have to report the incident to the authorities. The bill would also set stricter building requirements, including wider halls and doors, and better fire suppression systems. The state Department of Public Health, which regulates Alabama's five abortion clinics, reports that most will not meet the stricter standards.
Proponents of the bill say that the ultimate goal of these regulations is to protect women’s health. Critics, however, say that the bill aims to shut Alabama’s five abortion clinics.
Nikema Williams, Vice President of Public Policy for Planned Parenthood Southeast, said the true goal of the bill is to "make all abortion illegal and inaccessible in Alabama."
Williams said that she expects Alabama clinics to challenge the regulations if this bill is signed into law.
On the other hand, the bill’s sponsor, Republican Mary Sue McClurkin, stated, “If an abortion clinic is truly dedicated to providing adequate care, ensuring dependable safeguards, and putting patients’ needs before profits, it will embrace this legislation rather than oppose it. I am proud that the state of Alabama is daring to defend the right to life.”
In the past month, North Dakota and Arkansas passed new anti-abortion laws. The Alabama legislation is also nearly identical to a bill approved in Mississippi that threatens to close the state's lone abortion clinic after hospitals refused to grant admitting privileges to its doctor. These legislations, including the Alabama bill, challenge the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade that made abortion legal in 1973.