Alabama Republicans Advance Bill To Close Last Five Abortion Clinics In The State

Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin (R), sponsor of HB 57

Republican lawmakers in Alabama took a crucial step on Wednesday towards their goal of shuttering the state’s last five abortion clinics, advancing a bill to the full house that would impose strict requirements on abortion providers.

The bill, the so-called “Women’s Health and Safety Act,” passed the Republican-controlled House Health Committee on Wednesday morning, and could come to vote in the full legislature as soon as Thursday. If passed, it would require clinics to meet certain architectural standards and have a physician present for all abortions — a provision Republicans claim is for the safety of patients, but is in fact a smokescreen designed to make compliance as difficult as possible:

But critics charged the bill sets impossible standards that have little to do with patient safety and that the bill stems from a template created by the pro-life group Americans United for Life.

“This bill targets regulatory standards of architectural structure, equipment and staffing that are totally unnecessary and cannot be met by the clinics,” said Gloria Gray, director of the West Alabama Women’s Health Center in Tuscaloosa. “How does requiring a six-foot hallway make it safer for a woman to have an abortion?”

Among the staffing concerns is a provision which states that only a licensed physician with admitting privileges to a hospital within the same metropolitan area as the clinic be allowed to administer abortion-inducing drugs.

In Tennessee, an abortion clinic that had been open for nearly four decades was forced to close after a similar bill was passed in that state last year. And in neighboring Mississippi, the state’s one and only abortion clinic may have to close its doors after a new law went into effect last year requiring a physician with admitting privileges to be present for all abortions.

Abortion clinics, especially ones in states where taxpayer funding is negligible if it exists at all, don’t often have room in their budgets to pay licensed physicians. The end result — much to the delight of the anti-choice lawmakers who propose these bills — is that clinics fall out of compliance and are forced to close or end their abortion services.