By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY–Something that has come as a recent phenomena republicans and democrats agreeing on a particular bill but for very different reason, all couched under the notion of good policy makes change bedfellows. On Tuesday, Republicans and Democrats came together to pass a bill on the Senate Floor regarding healthcare coverage concerning abortions and abortion services.
States are preparing their customized healthcare exchanges in case the Affordable Healthcare Act has a positive outcome from the US Supreme Court.
Under what has come to be known as Obamacare, abortion and abortion services would be covered by federal mandate. After passing through the Congress, this portion was added as one of the options in which states could make their own decision.
Senate Bill 10 sponsored by Senator Greg Reed (R-Jasper) was given final passage with a bi-partisan vote of 30-2. Sen. Reed said, “We opt out. We don’t want the federal funding to do that in particular.”
Nationwide, 16 other states have opted out of mandated funding to be used specifically for abortions and abortion services.
“We don’t want the federal government to tell us what to use our healthcare dollars for. We want to step away from this, and opt out of being forced to utilize those funds for abortion or abortion services,” said Sen. Reed.
He continued to outline primary areas that are important as follows:
“First, I am pro-life, if we can reduce the number of abortions, if not having abortions being funded by the federal government under the AHA minimizes the number of abortions in Alabama then great. We already have 10,300 abortions performed in Alabama last year.
“Secondly, we have an issue here with the AHA which is one of the small places that we have the opportunity to send a message back to the federal government [in saying] we do not want to participate in you mandating how dollars are used in our state.
“Thirdly, I think it gives an issue overreaching related to the AHA that we want to let the federal government know that we are not exactly pro-AHA. In Alabama, the Attorney General was in Washington during the case that was heard by the federal courts on constitutionality and Alabama is one of those states that said, ‘We don’t believe that it is constitutional that you force our citizens to buy insurance. This is one other way that we can show a stand related to the AHA.”
Senator Linda Coleman (D-Birmingham) added an amendment to the bill setting aside ectopic pregnancies from the abortion definition in the bill. The amendment passed 31-0.
Sen. Coleman said, “I look at this bill as not necessarily being about abortion per se. The bill includes those issues. As a female leader in this state work to represent all women. I think women are concerned about our health and choice. I am pro-life but I am pro-choice when it comes down to my body.”
She said, on the Senate Floor, that she was concerned regarding incidents of rape, incest or endangerment of a women health. In this bill these would be covered by insurance in these instances.
Sen. Reed said, “Ectopic pregnancy related to as it would be added into this bill as the definition as the definition of abortion eliminating an ectopic pregnancy from being considered here is something that I would consider a friendly amendment.”
In a personal note on the Floor, Sen. Reed said, “So I think it has several components that are very important. Not only are we standing for life and the sanctity of life, but we are also standing for the sovereignty of the state of Alabama and our ability to make decisions for our citizens.”
Senator Vivian Davis Figures (D-Mobile) and Sen. Coleman said that abortion, in specific, was not why the they voted for SB10.
Sen. Figures said, “I am a woman who believes that a woman should make her own choice about whether or not she wants to have an abortion. I would have never chosen to have an abortion but I think that every woman should be able to make that choice for herself. If she does then there should be safe ways for her to do that.
“On the other hand I do believe that females need to take on the responsibility for their actions. If they are going to engage in sexual activity then they need to accept the responsibility. Therefore, I do not feel that it is government’s responsibility to give them an abortion if they should choose to have one. That is where I stabd on this. This bill did give the exclusions in the cases of rape, incest and now the ectopic pregnancies which an endangerment to women’s health. It stipulated all of those things. And with that I think that those are good exceptions,” said Sen. Figures.
Sen. Coleman said that this bill did not devalue the life and health of a woman that other bills have. She said that she would not consider any bill that did.She said, “I am pro-life but I am also pro-choice when it comes down to what happens to my body.
She said that she felt that Sen. Reed had considered these concerns when writing this bill and this a reason she could vote for it. “We talked about this in the committee, that was included. Right now, until we get this signed into law–Senator Waggoner’s bill–we know that an ectopic pregnancy in Alabama is considered an abortion. A woman can not carry an ectopic pregnancy to term or she will die.”
There are two bills removing ectopic pregnancy from the definition of abortion in Alabama. Coleman’s amendment would bring SB10 in line with those bills.
“There are very few of us [in the Legislature]. We just wanted [the women of Alabama] to know that we are here to stand up for their rights because we are women and we understand,” said Sen. Coleman.
Sen. Figures said, “I just wanted to make it clear that the women who voted for this [bill] did not vote for some of the reasons [pointed out by Sen. Reed].”
Both senators agreed that the government should not be required to pay for an abortion caused by recklessness lack of responsibility on the part of the female. Sen. Coleman said, “If you made that choice [to have unprotected sex] and said, “Oops.” Then “oops” it is your choice to pay for that abortion.
Representative Ed Henry (R-Decatur) will be sponsoring the bill in the House.