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Pro-life lawmakers in Alabama attract media attention comment (0)

April 19, 2012

By Sondra Washington

Pro-life lawmakers at the Alabama Statehouse plan to capitalize on last year’s momentum in the fight to save unborn lives, but abortion supporters are not going down without a fight.

Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville, witnessed this firsthand when Senate Bill (SB) 12 was being considered by the Senate health committee. The legislation would establish the Right to Know and See Act and require that except in medical emergencies “a physician perform an ultrasound, provide verbal explanation of the ultrasound and display the images to the pregnant woman before performing an abortion.”

Although a bill passed in 2002, called the Woman’s Right to Know Act, prohibiting the “performance or inducement of an abortion without voluntary and informed consent,” Scofield said his bill would remove the doctor’s ability to “lie” to women, telling them their babies are a “clump of cells or mass of tissue.” It would also make sure women know they have the right to see the ultrasound if they choose.

“Right now, the state of Alabama requires that ultrasounds be performed before the abortion is done … to determine the age of the child,” Scofield said. “There are so many women ... who either were denied that right or did not know ... they could see the image.”

Scofield said the bill ignited a “media firestorm” with his opponents focusing their arguments on the idea that women would be forced to undergo an invasive ultrasound procedure.

“What is wrong with ensuring that the woman has as much information as possible before she has to make that decision?” he asked.

Scofield is currently making clarifications to the bill and plans to reintroduce it at a later date. The companion bill — House Bill (HB) 418 — was filed by Rep. April Weaver, R-Alabaster.

Other pro-life bills expected to attract a great deal of attention are those like HB 112, which passed from committee April 5.

Sponsored by Rep. Ed Henry, R-Decatur, the bill will “prohibit health insurance coverage of elective abortions unless the insured has paid additional monies for a separate rider” and allow Alabama to opt out of “allowing abortion coverage by exchanging participating health plans.”

Similar bills addressing this matter include SB 10 and SB 335, sponsored by Sen. Greg Reed, R-Jasper, and SB 20, sponsored by Sen. Shadrack McGill, R-Scottsboro. SB 10 and SB 20 are awaiting a third reading before the Senate. 

“I would like to see us minimize the number of abortions ... any way we could,” said Reed, who also chairs the Senate health committee. “Last year, we had a total of seven bills that came out of committee and actually passed the Alabama Senate. This year, we are on (the same) track where three bills have passed out of the Senate health committee.”

Other pro-life bills:

  • HB 493, sponsored by Rep. Jack Williams, R-Birmingham, seeks to exclude ectopic pregnancies from the definition of abortion. It is pending a third reading in the House.
  • SB 6 and SB 96, sponsored by Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, will establish the Abortion-Inducing Drug Safety Act and make it “unlawful to administer any abortion-inducing drug to a woman without her receiving an exam by a physician.” Both bills are in the Senate health committee.
  • SB 105 sponsored by Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, and HB 375, sponsored by Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, R-Indian Springs, and co-sponsored by eight others, address the rights of health-care professionals to refuse to perform any medical services that violate their conscience. SB 105 is awaiting a third reading, while a HB 375 is pending action by the House health committee.
  • McClurkin also sponsored HB 223, which will “provide comprehensive standards of medical care for abortion and reproductive health centers.”

Eric Johnston, a Birmingham attorney and president of the Southeast Law Institute, calls this bill the most important pro-life legislation in the Statehouse.

“It sets up a significant structure for regulating abortion clinics in the sense that they have got to provide a higher level of health care — what you would expect from your doctor,” he said. “It requires the abortion doctor to have admitting privileges to a local hospital and requires him to stay in the abortion clinic after he performs an abortion.”

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