By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Wednesday the Alabama House Health Committee, chaired by Representative Jim McClendon (R) from Springville, held a public hearing on four bills related to abortion. Predictably, Pro-Life advocates and Pro-Choice advocates were both on hand to state their cases for and against the proposed legislation.
Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin (R) from Indian Springs is the sponsor of the Heartbeat bill, HB490, which bans performing abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
Rev. Joe Godfrey, the executive director of Alabama Citizens Action Program (ALCAP) spoke in favor of the bill. Godfrey said that if you have a heart beat and you still make the decision to abort the child you are making the decision to pull the plug.
Meg Tillman from Huntsville spoke in opposition to the bill. She said that a heartbeat is not a right to personhood. She said that she was concerned that if this bill is passed doctors who perform abortion would leave the state of Alabama.
Opponents of the legislation said that with the right equipment a fetal heart beat can be detected as early as six weeks. The critics claimed that this bill would effectively abolish all abortions in Alabama. They also were concerned that the requirement that abortion clinics store the information would be too harsh a burden on the clinic operators.
Rep. Ed Henry (R) from Decatur said that every legitimate medical facility in Alabama can already store this information.
Rep. Henry is the sponsor of HB 489 which would require that women contemplating an abortion be provided with more information and stipulates at least a 48 hour waiting period prior to an abortion. Alabama Citizens for Life said in a written statement that they are, “In favor of providing women seeking abortion as much objective medical information as possible and would like to see women given a list of where they could obtain a free ultrasound as part of informed consent prior to scheduling an abortion.”
Rev. Godfrey said, “Nobody is discussing the rights of the child. I am grateful for politicians that are willing to make a stand,” for unborn children. “What you are doing is protecting the rights of people who will contribute to society who otherwise might be killed.”
Jo Anne Cummings said that she found all four of these bills very troubling.
Rep. Jones sponsored HB 494 which strengthens the requirement that minors must have consent before they can have an abortion in the state of Alabama. Rep. Jones said that his legislation would require that the parent actually bring the minor in for an abortion rather than the minor simply show up at a clinic with a signed consent form. It also requires that the parent provide proof that they are actually the parent, such as the birth certificate.
Rep. Jones said, “This is so the 40 year old boyfriend doesn’t claim to be the parent of the 16 year old girlfriend.”
There are also a pathway for the minor to get permission for the abortion from their county court. Jones said this is necessary because “There are situations where a minor might have reason not to get parent consent.”
The bill’s critics told the Health Committee that this is the incremental chipping away at the rights to an abortion.
Rep. Kurt Wallace (R) from Maplesville is the sponsor of the Perinatal Hospice bill, HB493. It would provide compassionate option information to families for severe fetal anomalies through providing perinatal hospice services.
Pat Harris opposed that bill as well. She said, “I am real confused about this bill. It just seems to be putting parents on a guilt trip. No one has addressed the pain that these children suffer throughout their lives.”
Joe Godfrey said, “We do support this bill. I worked in close connection with families that brought in Hospice and for this to be expanded is a great opportunity to show mercy and kindness.”
Rosalyn McDermott from Huntsville said, “All four of these bills are attempts to limit women’s rights to an abortion and there will be challenges like there was to last year’s bill.”
Alabama Citizens for Life said in a written statement, “Thank you also goes to Rep. Jim McClendon for prioritizing the bills respecting innocent human life by scheduling a vote for next Tuesday Feb 25th on the above measures.”
Longtime Pro-Life advocate Cheryl Ciamarra (R) told the Alabama Political Reporter afterwards, “The ACLU was opposed to every one of those bills. Why would they be opposed to giving women more information?” Mrs. Ciamarra is running for state representative in Alabama House District 43 where incumbent Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin is retiring.
The Vice President of Public Policy for Planned Parenthood Southeast, Nikema Williams wrote in a prepared statement afterwards, “Politicians in Alabama continue to attack women’s health care, when they should be expanding it. These bills are part of a larger extreme agenda to restrict all abortions under any circumstances in the state.”
Republican Party Chairman Reince Preibus wrote recently, “Despite Democrats’ rhetoric, Republicans actually stand with the majority of Americans on many important life issues. For example, a majority of Americans disapprove of late term abortions, but Democrats, especially President Obama, take the extreme position of supporting them. Republicans at the state and national level have worked to enact protections for life after 20 weeks of pregnancy, but Democrats by and large have opposed them—and therefore opposed the majority of Americans. Most Americans see these protections as reasonable and the right thing to do. Moreover, polling in recent years shows Americans support a range of other pro-life policies: 87 percent support informed-consent laws; 71 percent support parental consent laws; 69 percent support a 24-waiting period; 64 percent support banning partial-birth abortion.”
The Alabama Citizens for Life Pro-Life Legislative Rally has been set for Tuesday Feb. 25th. The Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives House Mike Hubbard (R) from Auburn will be speaking at the rally this year as well as Senator Scott Beason (R) from Gardendale. Sen. Beason is running for Congress this year in Alabama’s Sixth Congressional District.