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Ala. House Passes Bill Mandating 2,000 Feet Between Abortion Clinics, Public Schools

May 28, 2015 — The Alabama House on Tuesday voted 79-15 to pass a bill (HB 527) that would not allow abortion clinics to operate within 2,000 feet of public schools, AP/ABC News reports.

The measure now heads to the state Senate, where it has five meeting days to be considered before the legislative session ends (Chandler, AP/ABC News, 5/26).

Bill Details

The bill, filed by state Rep. Ed Henry (R), would prohibit the state Department of Public Health from issuing or renewing health center licenses to abortion clinics that do not meet the minimum distance requirement (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/26).

On Tuesday, state lawmakers added two amendments to the bill. One amendment, proposed by state Rep. Laura Hall (D), removes language in the bill that would have applied the zoning requirement to all reproductive health centers. Another amendment, proposed by state Rep. Phil Williams (R), specifies that the rule applies only to public school buildings currently in operation and not to those that have been abandoned.

The bill aims to close the Alabama Women's Center in Huntsville, which is the sole abortion facility in Northern Alabama (Edgemon, Alabama Media Group, 5/26). According to the Montgomery Advertiser, Henry on Tuesday rejected an amendment that would have grandfathered the Huntsville clinic (Lyman, Montgomery Advertiser, 5/26).

Comments

Henry said the bill was needed to protect students from antiabortion-rights protests outside clinics, which can include graphic imagery (Alabama Media Group, 5/26). However, he rejected suggestions that the protests be regulated.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Patricia Todd (D), who has worked as a clinic escort, said, "Let's get real who's the problem here. It is not the clinic, it is the people protesting the operation" (Montgomery Advertiser, 5/26).

Separately, Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates said the group "stands firmly against HB 527 and the targeted attack on women's healthcare in Alabama." ARRA added, "This bill was brought about out of the frustrations of the anti-abortion protesters in North Alabama who have been attempting to block access by manipulating existing laws unsuccessfully" (Alabama Media Group, 5/26).