During Day, Alabama Pro-Choice Activists Rally—At Night, Legislature Passes Bill to Close Clinics

Reproductive rights activists gathered at the Alabama Capitol Tuesday to voice their opposition to a number of bills, including a targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) bill that could cut off access to safe, legal abortion in the state. Anti-choice legislators ignored their concerns; later that evening, the state senate and house both met to pass the TRAP bill and send it onto the governor for his signature.

The small but vocal group that gathered in Montgomery at a protest organized by Planned Parenthood Southeast spoke out against a bill that would grant employers veto power over offering birth control coverage in insurance plans and another that proposes misleading and inaccurate “informed consent” requirements. However, the bill that most threatens safe abortion access in the state is the TRAP bill, HB 57, which would mandate physical requirements and facility upgrades for clinics offering abortions and require local hospital admitting privileges for doctors performing the procedures.

The TRAP bill is a two-pronged attack on both doctors and facilities, mandating new, expensive, and unnecessary physical requirements. The bill will force all abortion providers to submit to the Department of Public Health new architectural plans for their buildings, including expensive sprinkler systems, then be certified as ambulatory surgical centers within one year or lose their licenses.

Planned Parenthood Southeast President and CEO Staci Fox said the rally was a chance “to talk about the logic behind the bill and clarify what it will do to women,” according to the Montgomery Advertiser. This message was completely ignored by the Alabama senate. A few hours after the rally ended, at about 5 pm, the senate took the TRAP bill up for a vote, surprising the few activists who remained at the Capitol. All but one of the amendments introduced by Democratic senators were defeated, and after two hours of debate the Republicans called for a cloture vote, ending the debate with a 22-to-10.

Because of one additional amendment—requiring clinics to offer a list of medications prescribed to patients after an abortion—the bill had to be sent back to the house, which voted it through 68 to 21 at about 11 pm. Now the bill will head to Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley for signature. Bentley has already stated that he will sign the bill into law, telling anti-choice activists at a rally earlier this year that “this is what God expects us to do.”

“I am sick over the passage of this bill,” local reproductive rights activist Pamela Willis Watters told RH Reality Check. “I knew it was coming, but it still makes me sad for women and girls in this state. My family has been in Alabama since it was a Cherokee nation. This state has a sordid past, but we are determined to make it a better place to live. The [anti-choice legislators] may win some battles, but we will eventually win the war.”

“The passage of this TRAP bill is an embarrassment to our state and a waste of taxpayers’ time and money,” added Melissa Davis, another opponent of the bill. “It’s been shown to these legislators over and over that not only is abortion one of the safest medical procedures a woman can obtain, but that our clinics in particular have exemplary safety records. I’m disappointed in our supposed representatives, and their failure to stand up for women’s rights in our state, yet again. 2014 can’t come too soon for me.”

“This legislation will make it harder to access health care, which will put women’s health in danger,” Nikema Williams, vice president of public policy at Planned Parenthood Southeast, said in a statement. “Abortion already is one of the safest medical procedures for women. The people behind this legislation really want to make all abortion illegal and inaccessible in Alabama.”

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  • mary spears

    Another step backward for Alabama. This is an end run around the U.S. Constitution and a clear violation of the civil rights of the women of Alabama. The Alabama legislature, instead of thinking for itself and its constituencies, takes bills written by national lobbies and imposes them upon the people of the state. I so admire Ms. Watters and those who are on the front lines of this fight, working every day to protect patients at our women’s clinics. SHAME on the Alabama legislature and the narrow-minded religious zealots who seek to force their beliefs upon others and deny them their constitutional rights.

    • Jonathan Kuperberg

      The Alabama legislature didn’t magically appear at the summoning of national interest groups, nor did they hide their agenda while running for office. They were elected to office by local residents having been openly endorsed by the Right to Life, FRC, AFA, Christian Coalition, Eagle Forum and so on. AL is one of the most socially conservative states, always has been- even a lot of the Democrats are pro Religious Right and only vote D because they’re black and Southern Republicans since 1964 have a regrettable little history of having a problem with that.

      If it’s truly an “end run around the U.S Constitution” then the courts will strike it down and it will not be a valid law. I think you know quite well that this is WITHIN the limits of Roe as modified by Casey. If they wanted to go clearly outside those limits, so as to invite a challenge and ultimately SCOTUS to reconsider, they could have followed AR and ND. But all of that’s FAR from the major problem with this disgusting comment.

      You know who else who lived in Alabama and wrongly supposed that the Constitution and Supreme Court rulings were a sufficient reason to disobey God by denying some humans rights that HE (not man) had given them- even though the Bible says civil rulers take their authority from God and so must rule with justice? Who wrote papers saying how those who rejected their views were radicals trying to push their own personal morality on others above the Constitution?

      Yes, that would be slave-owners and racist Jim Crow lawmakers, based on the original pro-slavery Constitution, Dred Scott, and even after the 14th Amendment Plessy v Ferguson.

      When someone decided they would put the Bible’s teaching of justice for all first and rose up against man-made laws and interpretations of a secular constitution, they ended up in jail in the state’s capital. Yet you’ll find a holiday on the calendar for him- not the generations of white supremacists who had American law on their side only to have to face God at death, and his name’s Jehovah, not Thomas Jefferson nor Oliver Wendell Holmes.

      “Civil rights”? Feticidal wrongs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=670036109 Cyndia Montgomery

    It is absolutely maddening the disconnect, and sheer uncaring, that the Alabama state legislature and government have for the women and children of Alabama. Our children are our future, yet the political leaders remove any opportunities of a good education and good health are for all. From vouchers to school meals to Head Start, our children are placed at the lowest rung of importance.
    They place more importance on the “life” of a fetus than of a child already born. They are not concerned with safety of women; they are concerned with maintaining their own power and control over us. I find it interesting as I was the events