Alabama on Tuesday became the latest state to tightly regulate facilities where abortions are performed, placing onerous new requirements on doctors that could force the state’s five remaining abortion clinics to shut down.
“As a physician, and as a governor, I am proud to sign this legislation,” Governor Robert Bentley (R) said in an advisory. “This bill provides appropriate standards of care. It has been endorsed by pro-life groups across Alabama. This is a key piece of legislation in the House Republican Agenda, and I am honored to stand with legislative leaders and sign this bill.”
HB 57 (PDF), approved by the Alabama Senate on April 3, will require doctors who perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges starting in July. Other states to mandate hospital admitting privileges for abortion providers include Arizona, Kansas, Tennessee, Utah, North Dakota and Mississippi.
The Mississippi law is currently being used by anti-abortion lawmakers in Mississippi to justify closing the last abortion clinic in the whole state. There are only five licensed abortion clinics operating today in Alabama, and none of them hire doctors with hospital admitting privileges.
The reason these laws pose such a threat to abortion clinics is because so few emergencies result from modern surgical abortions, to the point where just one woman out of 160,000 will die, usually from suffering a pulmonary embolism or complications related to anesthesia, according to the National Abortion Federation.
“The women of Alabama deserve the highest possible standard of healthcare, particularly at such a difficult time,” the bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin (R), said in Gov. Bentley’s advisory. “If an abortion clinic is truly dedicated to providing adequate care, ensuring dependable safeguards and putting patients’ needs before profits, it will embrace this legislation rather than oppose it.”
The Supreme Court held in Roe v. Wade that abortion is a constitutional right protected under the right to privacy, determining that states must show compelling reason to place any restrictions on that right. An exception the court set out is for licensing doctors in order to safeguard public health, which states explicitly can do, according to the National Women’s Law Center. This new law in Alabama appears designed specifically to run aground Roe v. Wade in order to test how far states can go in restrictions ostensibly designed to protect public health.
“Even though I continue to be disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed abortion to remain the law of the land, we can take these measures to protect the health of women,” state Sen. Scott Beason (R) added.