Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) on Thursday signed into law anti-choice bills that will regulate abortion clinics in the same manner as sex offenders and criminalize a common method of second-trimester abortion care.
The state’s GOP-dominated legislature passed both anti-choice bills by wide margins.
SB 205, sponsored by state Sen. Paul Sanford (R-Huntsville), would prohibit the Alabama Department of Public Health from issuing or renewing a health center license to an abortion clinic or reproductive health center located within 2,000 feet of a public school, regulating abortion clinics like registered sex offenders.
The bill targets a Huntsville-area abortion clinic that was forced by state legislators three years ago to relocate across the street from a school. The West Alabama Women’s Center in Tuscaloosa, which is located near the Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools-Elementary, would also be forced to close.
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The other anti-choice measure, SB 363, would prohibit a physician from performing a “dismemberment abortion” unless it is necessary to prevent serious health risk to the pregnant person. This law targets a procedure known as dilation and evacuation (D and E), frequently used during second-trimester abortions.
Physicians who violate the law would face fines of up to $10,000 and/or two years in prison.
Susan Watson, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, told Reuters that the new laws, which the ACLU intends to challenge in court, will have a detrimental effect on reproductive health care. “It would really reduce the access in the northern part of Alabama,” Watson said.
Nikema Williams, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood Southeast, said in a statement that the “misguided legislation” was passed after Republican lawmakers suspended debate to silence opposition from Black lawmakers.
Members of the House Black Caucus gathered and sang “We Shall Overcome” for several minutes in protest after GOP lawmakers allegedly subverted house rules to pass the anti-choice bills, reported the Montgomery Advertiser.
Caucus Chair John Knight told the Associated Press the use of house procedures by Republican lawmakers amounted to “muzzle tactics.”
“It goes to show how issues of racial justice and access to health care are interconnected and cannot be fought alone,” Williams said. “Lawmakers must take notice and take action to address issues of race, homophobia, sexism, and other oppressions that impact our daily lives.”