An Alabama lawmaker filed legislation Tuesday targeting the only clinic in the state providing abortion services, charging that children should be protected from anti-choice protests.
Rep. Ed Henry (R-Hartselle) filed HB 527, which would empower the Alabama Department of Public Health to reject applications or refuse to renew a health center license for facilities providing abortion or reproductive health-care services that are located within 2,000 feet of a public school.
The legislation was drafted by the anti-choice group Christian Coalition of Alabama. James Henderson, the former leader of the group, told the Montgomery Press-Register that the bill is intended to shut down the state’s lone abortion clinic.
The Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives Services is across the street from Edward H. White Middle School. The clinic recently moved to the location after being forced to relocate to comply with the “Women’s Health and Safety Act,” passed in 2013.
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Henry said he had been asked to file the bill by several Alabama anti-choice groups, and that the legislation is necessary to protect school children from protests at abortion clinics that are often staged by the very same anti-choice activists who advocated for HB 527.
“To me, the whole atmosphere around abortion clinics is very unsettling, with protesters on both sides, and to me not something we need to have the children of Alabama subjected to,” Henry told the Times Daily. “We regulate how close liquor stores can be to schools and churches.”
“We were advised counsel that a good approach was to use the same standard of keeping sex offenders from public schools, which is 2,000 feet,” he added. “That is what the bill is based on.”
However, the sponsor of the bill said the he was not aware of any clinics that would be affected if the bill became law. “I did not know it would impact closing (a clinic),” Henry told the local paper.
Since being elected to the state house in 2010, Henry has compiled a staunchly anti-choice voting recording.
ACLU of Alabama Executive Director Susan Watson questioned whether the bill would stand up to a legal challenge.
“You can’t pass a law taking away somebody’s business just because you don’t like it,” Watson told the Press-Register. “It is yet again the legislators [who] are proposing these bills that are going to cost the state of Alabama a whole lot of money.”