May 8, 2015 — An Alabama House Committee on Wednesday advanced three antiabortion-rights measures, the Huntsville Times reports.
According to the Times, details on the committee's votes were not immediately available (Edgemon, Huntsville Times, 5/6). All of the bills now advance to the full state House (Swant, AP/Belleville News-Democrat, 5/6).
One bill (HB 527), filed by state Rep. Ed Henry (R), would prohibit the state Department of Public Health from issuing or renewing health center licenses to abortion or reproductive health clinics located within 2,000 feet of a public school's campus or property. The measure would force most of the state's clinics to close, including the Huntsville Women's Clinic, which is the sole abortion facility in Northern Alabama.
Another bill (HB 405) would require physicians to check for a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion and make it illegal to perform an abortion if a heartbeat can be detected. Currently, the state permits abortion until 20 weeks of pregnancy. However, the bill could prohibit abortion as early as six weeks' gestation. The state House passed a similar ban last year, but it did not advance in the state Senate.
The third bill (HB 491) would allow most health care providers to refuse to perform medical services to which they have personal objections (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/1).
Susan Watson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, in a statement said the "bills are an affront to women and limi[t] their access to a constitutionally protected medical procedure." She added, "Politicians need to stop meddling in medical affairs and putting a woman in harm's way. Regardless of how we feel about abortion, we can all agree that a woman needs and deserves the highest quality medical care possible."
Watson also noted that the state "can't afford any more unnecessary litigation" (Huntsville Times, 5/6).
Meanwhile, state Rep. Terri Collins (R) said the fetal heartbeat bill was "common-sense" legislation. She acknowledged that a federal judge had rejected a similar law (HB 1456) in North Dakota in 2014, but she suggested that a federal court in Alabama could issue a different ruling (AP/Belleville News-Democrat, 5/6).