The Alabama legislature’s general session is coming to close on Thursday night — but not before lawmakers do their best to push through several additional restrictions on abortion.
On Wednesday evening, lawmakers gave final approval to a measure that will extend the state’s mandatory abortion waiting period from 24 hours to 48 hours. The legislation will require each woman who is seeking abortion care to make a preliminary trip to a clinic to receive information about abortion risks, gestational development, and alternatives to ending a pregnancy. Then, she’ll be forced to wait two days before she can return to have the procedure.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R) has indicated that lawmakers may also find time to approve another abortion restriction, a measure that would make it more difficult for a minor to obtain a legal abortion, before the end of the day. Meanwhile, Marsh suggested that two other controversial abortion bills up for consideration — one to outlaw the procedure at just six weeks of pregnancy, and another to require women choosing to end a nonviable pregnancy to receive more information about hospice centers that can care for their infant before it succumbs to its fatal conditions — won’t be able to move in the Senate.
Alabama Rep. Ed Henry (R), who spearheaded the bill to extend the state’s abortion waiting period to 48 hours, believes his legislation will help women change their minds about ending a pregnancy. He has spoken publicly about the fact that he accompanied a former girlfriend to get an abortion 20 years ago, and he now regrets it. “I don’t know if 48 hours would have made a difference, but I suspect it would have,” he said earlier this session.
But Henry is also open about the fact that he wishes the state could ban abortion altogether. He’s disappointed that the six-week abortion ban probably won’t get approved on Thursday, and told reporters that he would rather pass that legislation than his own bill. “I still believe that’s the best bill out of the lot… that would have saved more lives in the state of Alabama than any of these,” Henry said.
Henry is correct in suggesting that his bill won’t actually do anything to lower the abortion rate. Multiple studies have shown that the women who seek out abortion services have already made up their mind about ending a pregnancy, and they’re not persuaded by extra state-level requirements that are designed to convince them to reconsider. Furthermore, the women who do have abortions don’t tend to regret the decision and wish they had taken more time to think about it; overwhelmingly, they say it was the right decision for them.
The American Civil Liberties Union has been keeping its eye on Alabama lately, warning that the current anti-abortion bills in the legislature have been moving at an alarmingly fast pace. The four proposed restrictions were introduced together on the same day in the middle of February and have swiftly advanced. Although the six-week ban has grabbed the most headlines so far, the ACLU is just as concerned about the other proposed legislation that seeks to more subtly chip away at women’s reproductive rights.
“We need to remember that all of these bills threaten women’s health, and that they’re all equally as important and equally as dangerous for women,” Hayley Smith, the associate advocacy and policy counsel for the ACLU, told ThinkProgress last month.