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Meet The Lawmaker Who’s Trying To End Abortion In Alabama

By Tara Culp-Ressler  

"Meet The Lawmaker Who’s Trying To End Abortion In Alabama"

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Alabama Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin (R) during a House Ways and Means Committee meeting in January

Alabama Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin (R) during a House Ways and Means Committee meeting in January

CREDIT: AP Photo/Butch Dill

On Tuesday, a panel of Alabama lawmakers advanced four stringent anti-abortion bills that would prevent women in the state from exercising their reproductive rights. The proposed legislation would ban abortions after just six weeks; force women to wait 48 hours before getting an abortion; make it more difficult for minors to end an unwanted pregnancy; and impose more emotional trauma on women who choose to have an abortion after discovering lethal fetal abnormalities.

The ACLU’s associate advocacy and policy council, Hayley Smith, told ThinkProgress that Alabama’s current assault on reproductive rights is moving at “an alarmingly fast pace.” And that assault includes one of the harshest abortion bans in the nation — a so-called “heartbeat bill” to outlaw abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can occur before women even realize they’re pregnant.

State officials are already warning that the heartbeat bill will provoke an immediate legal challenge. But the lawmaker who proposed the six-week abortion ban, Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin (R), is unperturbed. “I’m not really concerned about the challenges. We’ve had challenges before. We wouldn’t have some of the things we have now if it hadn’t been for Brown versus Board of Education,” McClurkin told a local ABC News affiliate, referring to the landmark court ruling that desegregated schools.

It’s no surprise that this public official would equate her quest to ban abortion with the civil rights movement. McClurkin, who is perhaps the most ardently anti-abortion state lawmaker in Alabama, has a long history of pushing policies to undermine reproductive health. Here are some of her other greatest hits:

She believes women don’t need abortion access because they shouldn’t be having sex in the first place.

Like most lawmakers who put forth heartbeat bills, McClurkin isn’t concerned that her legislation may prevent women from being able to exercise their constitutionally protected right to end a pregnancy. She has conceded that her bill will end up banning most abortions in the state. But she believes that women simply shouldn’t be sexually active if they are not prepared to have a baby. “I do want life to be the choice the woman chooses because she has a choice before she even participates in something that would lead to the life of a person,” she said this week.

Last year, she claimed a baby is “the largest organ in the body.”

McClurkin made national headlines last year after making some unusual comments about anatomy. “When a physician removes a child from a woman, that is the largest organ in a body. That’s a big thing. That’s a big surgery. You don’t have any other organs in your body that are bigger than that,” she said to justify her support for additional restrictions on abortion providers. That statement seems to undermine the anti-choice community’s position that fetuses are distinct people that deserve all the rights of U.S. citizenship. It’s also factually incorrect; the largest organ in the body is the skin.

She championed harsh restrictions on abortion providers that threaten to close down Alabama’s clinics.

McClurkin made her controversial organ statements while advocating for a measure to indirectly restrict women’s abortion access by targeting abortion clinics. She spearheaded that legislation, which successfully passed last year despite the fact that Planned Parenthood warned it would “essentially ban abortion statewide.” Several reproductive health organizations sued to overturn that harsh law, and it’s currently blocked from taking effect. McClurkin says she considers that legislation to be one of her greatest accomplishments.

She serves on the leadership team of the National Pro-Life Women’s Caucus.

Susan B. Anthony List, the conservative organization that works to re-brand abortion restrictions as a feminist issue, convened the National Pro-Life Women’s Caucus to help encourage anti-choice women to run for office, as well as help them pass new laws in this area. McClurkin is one of the members of that caucus’ leadership team. The organization is pleased that McClurkin sponsored Alabama’s bill to crack down on abortion clinics.

She helps ALEC push its economic policy.

McClurkin is also affiliated with the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, the right-wing group that coordinates conservative legislation across different states. She serves as a member of ALEC’s Tax and Fiscal Policy Commission, which drafts model bills to kill carbon taxes, shrink pensions, and expand predatory debt collectors’ authority. ALEC is perhaps most notorious for pushing “Stand Your Ground” laws, like the one in Florida that allowed George Zimmerman to escape criminal charges for shooting and killing Trayvon Martin exactly two years ago.

She’s retiring at the end of this term, but will remain known as the “queen of pro-life legislation.”

This past fall, McClurkin announced that she plans to retire after serving 16 years in Alabama’s legislature. During an anti-choice rally this week, Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R) noted that she will be sorely missed. “There is one that stands up above all the rest. She has been a stalwart for Pro-Life. That is Mary Sue McClurkin of Shelby County,” Hubbard told a crowd of abortion opponents. “We are going to miss you in the legislature, but that fight for life will continue in the Alabama legislature.” At the same rally, one of the Republican contenders to fill McClurkin’s seat called her the “queen of pro-life legislation.”

Her proudest moment in office was sneaking a forced ultrasound bill past a Democratic House.

In a recent interview regarding her plan to retire, McClurkin noted that she’s proud of all the abortion restrictions she helped pass. But one in particular stands out in her mind: the “Women’s Right To Know Act,” a law that passed in 2002 requiring women to look at an ultrasound image before proceeding with an abortion. “It passed in the last few minutes of the legislative session. I had to cloture my own bill because the time was running out,” McClurkin recalled. “I hardly even knew what a cloture motion was, I had only seen other people do it. It was a miracle that happened with the Democrats in control. Steve Windom was Lt. Gov. at the time, and he made sure the Senate concurred with our bill as the clock ran out. Then Gov. Siegelman signed it into law.”

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