By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday the Alabama House of Representatives voted to pass the Women’s Health and Safety Act, HB 57, by a margin of 73 to 23. HB 57 holds Alabama abortion clinics to the same health and regulatory standards as those applied to other out patient surgical centers in the state.
Representative Mary Sue McClurkin (R) from Indian Springs was the sponsor of the bill. Rep. McClurkins said, “House Bill 57 is a bill that would improve the safety of women who choose to have an abortion. This is a bill that has been debated in this house before.” McClurkin presented a long list of individual citations that have occurred in abortion clincs under Alabama’s current lax regulatory standards over the last few years as evidence that the bill is needed.
Rep. McClurkin told the House, “Abortion clinics are not operating with the standard of care that you would choose.” McClurkin said that this bill protects the right of a woman having an abortion to have that procedure done as safely as possible. The bill would stipulate that only a physician may perform an abortion. McCurkin said that a, “Physician performing an abortion must be licensed in Alabama and have admission privileges at a local Alabama hospital.” The bill also instructs the physician to encourage a girl age 16 and under having the abortion to reveal the name of the father. Abortions on a child 14 year olds or younger must be reported to the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR). The physician must also give his name and telephone number to patients so that they can contact him if they experience any complications. The bill also stipulates that nurses involved in assisting abortions must be professional Rns or LPNs. Section Six of the bill describes the safety codes. McClurkin said that the bill holds Alabama abortion providers to just the common codes that ambulatory surgery centers have to abide by. McClurkin said that the bill makes sure that professionals are the ones performing abortions.
Rep. Patricia Todd (D) from Birmingham said that this bill is similar to a bill that was passed in Mississippi. Mississippi had five abortion clinics, now they have just one. Todd asked if existing clinics would be granfathered in.
Rep. McClurkin said, “They would have to meet the standard.”
Todd said, “I know where you are and where your belief is.” Rep. Todd said that the reality is that ever since this passed in 1973 there have been efforts to undermine the Roe v. Wade ruling. “The reality is that if this passes the clinics that exist in Alabama will go out of business. I am sure that you are happy with that.”
Rep. Terri Collins (R) from Morgan County said that she has been very active in her local community in Sav-a-life. “I agree with Todd that this will restrict access to abortions and I am pleased with that.”
Rep. Merika Coleman Evans (D) from Fairfield said that she believed that there would be unintended consequences from this bill and questioned how long it would take for an abortion doctor to get admissions privileges at a local hospital. “How long would it actually take for them (abortion doctors) to be able to continue to operate?”
Rep. April Weaver (R) from Shelby County said, “Every hospital has their own rules and regulations as defined by their bylaws. The hospital runs background checks, checks past employment, and has monthly credentialling meetings. As far as timeliness it shouldn’t be an issue at all.” Weaver said that any doctor will be able to get privileges in 90 days while the bill is waiting to go into effect.
Rep. Ed Henry from Decatur thanked Rep. McClurkin for bringing the bill. “I work in healthcare and I see the standards that we have to comply with.” Henry said that abortion clinics should have to operate under the same standards.
Rep. Alvin Holmes (D) said, “Personally I am against abortion.” Holmes said his advice to a girl or woman in his family would be against having an abortion but if that person choosed to have an abortion he would support that decision 100%. “This bill is too restrictive.”
Rep. Collins said, “A great day at Sav-a-life is when you talked to someone and they made God the priority in their life.” When a 12 year old came in that is a bad day. Collins said that she had provided post abortion counseling to a woman who could hear the baby that she aborted crying at night.”
An amendment introduced by Rep. Joe Hubbard (D) from Montgomery to prevent hospitals from barring a doctor who performed abortions from being denied admitting privileges if they met all the other standards was rejected by the House.
McClurkin said, “I don’t think we want to be in the business of administrating hospitals.”
Rep. Mary Moore (D) from Birmingham said, “This bill is a carbon copy of the Mississippi bill. The purpose of this bill is to close abortion clinics in this state.”
Following passage Rep. McClurkin said on Facebook, “What a wonderful night! Here I am as the Women’s Health and Safety Act passed 73-23. Thank you to my friends who supported me with your thoughts and prayers.”
The bill now moves to the Alabama Senate. This bill is part of the “We Dare Defend Our Rights Agenda” proposed by the Alabama House Republican Caucus.