Alabama House Votes to Restrict Abortion Clinics

     MONTGOMERY, Ala. (CN) – The Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday endorsed a bill prohibiting abortion clinics from operating within 2,000 feet of a public school.
     HB 527 was sponsored by Rep. Ed Henry, whose official website describes him as the “2nd most conservative member of the House,” and passed 79-15.
     The legislation was drafted by the Christian Coalition of Alabama, an anti-abortion group based in Montgomery that has been trying to close The Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives.
     The center, in Huntsville, Alabama, is located near a middle school.
     On its web page, the Christian Coalition called for support of its “2,000 foot bill” and issued an “Urgent Call to Action” telling visitors to the site, “We urgently need your help in closing down Huntsville’s only remaining abortion clinic!”
     The bill would prohibit the Department of Public Health from issuing or renewing a health center license to any abortion clinic or reproductive health center that is located within 2,000 feet of a public school – the same restriction placed on convicted sex offenders.
     The Alabama Women’s Center just moved to its new location last year to comply with the Women’s Health and Safety Act, passed by Republicans in 2013. The clinic spent $550,000 to purchase a new building and make improvements.
     Representative Henry said in interviews that he was approached by a anti-abortion group and asked to sponsor the bill so that children would not be exposed to “graphic” images from protesters on both sides of the issue.
     “There is such controversy and the atmosphere around abortion clinics, just by their very nature, is such that it’s not something we want to expose young kids to on their way to school every day,” he said.
     The lawmaker said that since filing the bill, he’s received calls from parents whose children attend the school close to the clinic.
     “I got phone calls from parents who are having to take their kids to school and go by these places when there are people on either side of the issue standing on either side of the street with very graphic signs for and against abortion,” he said.
     “Unless the state or federal government are going to do something to say that those individuals cannot protest there, then the environment around those clinics is going to be very volatile, very hostile,” Henry said.
     In a statement, Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates, an advocacy group for a woman’s right to make her own choices about her reproductive health, said it stands firmly against HB 527, calling it a “targeted attack on women’s healthcare in Alabama.”
     “This bill was brought about out of the frustrations of the anti-abortion protestors in North Alabama who have been attempting to block access by manipulating existing laws unsuccessfully,” the group continued. “These protesters are now seeking to use the Alabama State Legislature as a pawn at the expense of the taxpayers to carry out a personal vendetta.
     “By likening a health care facility to a sex offender in the wording of the bill it is clear that the intent is not to make women safer, but to deny access in Huntsville,” it continued. “These last minute attempts to force this bill the legislature would be better served to fix our state budget, and not create an ongoing legal battle by violating the constitutional rights of Alabama citizens.”
     The legislation now will head to the state senate for consideration.

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