The Alabama House of Representatives Tuesday approved legislation that would impose new regulations on the state’s abortion clinics.
The vote was 73 to 23, and came after about three hours of debate. The bill now goes to the Senate.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Mary Sue McCurkin, R-Pelham, would require physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals; require clinics to be built up to ambulatory clinic standards and make it a felony for anyone but a physician to dispense abortion-inducing drugs. Nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants who distributed abortion-inducing drugs could face 10 years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
Supporters of the bill said regulations on the state’s clinics needed to be tightened.
“This truly is a women’s rights bill,” McClurkin said during the debate. “It protects the right of women having an abortion to have it in a healthy, safe environment.”
Opponents have argued the changes are medically unnecessary; that abortion is a safe procedure and that the real purpose of the legislation is to close down the state’s five abortion clinics.
“Ever since we legalized abortion in 1973, there have always been attempts to restrict access to women by overregulation,” said Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham.
Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, said the legislation could cut off access to therapeutic uses of things like birth control.
“If (obtaining) an abortion is virtually impossible in Alabama, would you be OK with that?” England asked McClurkin.
McClurkin, who described herself as pro-life, said the point of the bill was not to close the clinics but ensure safety.
The bill resembles a similar piece of legislation passed in Mississippi last year. The legislation is seen as threatening that state’s single abortion clinic, and lawsuits have been filed over the legislation.
– posted by Brian Lyman