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Ala. Gov. Signs Abortion Clinic Regulations; Opponents Threaten Legal Challenge

Ala. Gov. Signs Abortion Clinic Regulations; Opponents Threaten Legal Challenge

April 10, 2013 — Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) on Tuesday signed into a law a measure (HB 57) that will impose stricter regulations on abortion clinics, prompting opponents to warn that they might launch a legal challenge, CNN reports (Martinez/Botelho, CNN, 4/9).

The measure would require that abortion providers obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals and that abortion clinics meet the same building standards as ambulatory clinics. In addition, the bill would prohibit anyone other than a physician from dispensing medication abortion drugs, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison and a $15,000 fine for providers violating the requirement.

The bill also would require that abortion providers ask minors younger than age 16 to identify the man involved in the pregnancy. If the minor responds and the man is more than two years older than the minor, providers would be required to report the case to police. Providers also would be required to report the names of all minors younger than age 14 who seek abortions to the state Department of Human Resources (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/9).

The law is scheduled to take effect on July 1 (Cason, Alabama Live, 4/9).

Potential Implications

Planned Parenthood Southeast Vice President of Public Policy Nikema Williams in a statement said, "[M]edical experts agree that laws requiring admitting privileges for abortion don't increase health or safety for a woman," adding, "They just limit a woman's access to safe and legal abortion" (CNN, 4/9).

The law is similar to a Mississippi measure that threatens to close the only abortion clinic in the state. The clinic -- Jackson Women's Health Organization -- was unable to obtain admitting privileges at any local hospitals and now awaits a hearing before the state Department of Health on whether it can remain open.

There are five abortion clinics in Alabama, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports. Only one of the clinics has a physician with local hospital admitting privileges, according to Planned Parenthood (Jackson Clarion-Ledger, 4/9).

Planned Parenthood warned of an "almost certain legal challenge" to the Alabama measure (CNN, 4/9). Separately, American Civil Liberties Union attorney Alexa Kolbi-Molinas said the organization "will take all appropriate steps, including filing a challenge to block the law if necessary, to ensure that a woman in Alabama can continue to access safe abortion care."

Supporters of the bill said it is designed to improve patient safety (Alabama Live, 4/9). Bentley said he is not troubled by the prospect that clinics might close. "As a physician and as a governor, I am proud to sign this legislation," said Bentley, who is a dermatologist (Jackson Clarion-Ledger, 4/9).