The Alabama Legislature gave final approval Tuesday that would further restrict abortion clinics in the state.
The Senate voted 22-10 to approve the legislation that would require physicians at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at local hospitals; would require them to be built up to ambulatory clinic standards; and would make it a felony for anyone but a physician to dispense abortion-inducing drugs.
The House of Representatives concurred in a minor amendment made to the bill by a vote of 68 to 21. The bill now goes to Gov. Robert Bentley, who is expected to sign it. Abortion rights groups have already threated to sue to block the bill if it becomes law.
The House of Representatives has already passed the legislation, but the Senate amended that version so the bill must go back to the House for approval of those changes. If the House does not concur, members from the two chambers will meet in committee to work out the differences.The Senate voted 22-10 to approve the legislation.
The bill would require physicians at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at local hospitals; would require them to be built up to ambulatory clinic standards; and would make it a felony for anyone but a physician to dispense abortion-inducing drugs.
Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, said abortion is not regulated as much as some other medical procedures in the state. He said some abortion clinics do not have proper standards of care.
“The goal here is to make sure women’s health is protected,” Beason said.
Sen. Linda Coleman, D-Birmingham, said Republicans criticized the federal healthcare legislation and said they do not want government in their healthcare, but want to restrict healthcare for women.
“Do we not have the same right? Do we not have the same choice?” Coleman asked. She said women are losing ground.
Coleman said abortion is one of the safest procedures.
“The Legislature of Alabama has no right legislating a woman’s body,” she said.
Coleman said abortion is legal so she questioned why the state was trying to shut it down.
“I just do not believe that your personal opinion should be put into law,” she said.
Sen. Harri Anne Smith, an independent from Slocomb, said she has always been pro-life and said she supports protecting the health of women, but said the proposal has some issues that could be unconstitutional and lead to the state spending a lot of money during tough economic times on a lawsuit the state could eventually lose. She said the Alabama law would be contested in court and that similar clauses in a Mississippi law are already being challenged.
Smith said some of her colleagues have admitted the intention of the bill is to close down the clinics, but the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states cannot place a burden on women obtaining an abortion. She said she worried that if the legislation shut down clinics that would lead to backroom abortions or women committing suicide.
“I am all in favor of making abortions safer in Alabama and putting standards in place, but I am not in favor of violating the Constitution,” Smith said.
Smith successfully proposed an amendment that would require, along with the current requirements that there be a card with the name of the physician and a contact number if a patient from an abortion clinic is admitted to the hospital, that would also include the medications that person has received in case there are any reactions.
The Senate shot down amendments proposed by Smith that would have removed the language being contested in Mississippi that would require those who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital.
– posted by Sebastian Kitchen (updated at 11:27 p.m.)