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Alabama GOP Makes Another Push to Regulate Abortion Clinics Like Sex Offenders

Teddy Wilson

Republican legislators are also backing a law that would require abortion providers to disclose their personal finances.

Two anti-choice bills have gained traction in the Alabama state legislature this month. One seeks to regulate abortion clinics in the same manner as sex offenders, and the other would require physicians who provide abortion care to disclose information about their personal finances to patients.

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 in the same manner as registered sex offenders.

Mia Raven, director of the Montgomery Area Reproductive Justice Coalition, previously told Rewire that “it’s insulting to women to compare a reproductive health-care center to sex offenders.”

Sanford told the Times Daily that he didn’t want a repeat of last year, when similar legislation passed in the house but stalled in the state senate.

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Lawmakers passed that anti-choice measure in the GOP-controlled house in a 79-15 vote. It then passed through a senate committee with three days left in the legislative session. However, the bill failed to reach the senate floor for a vote, despite Republicans holding a 26-8 majority in that chamber.

Sanford told the Times Daily that the legislation is not intended to limit the number of clinics that provide abortion services in the state, but he does not think clinics should be located across the street from a school “because they do tend to cause a certain amount of commotion on a regular basis.”

The bill specifically targeted a Huntsville-area abortion clinic that was forced by state legislators three years ago to relocate across the street from a school. The Alabama Women’s Center, one of five clinics in the state providing abortion care, reportedly spent $550,000 on relocating to comply with a targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) law Republican Gov. Robert Bentley signed in 2013. 

“We can put a restriction on whether a liquor store opens up across the street and make sure pedophiles stay away from schools,” Sanford said. “I just think having an abortion clinic that close to elementary-age school children that actually have to walk on the sidewalk past it is not the best thing.”

Rep. Ed Henry (R-Hartselle), who sponsored similar legislation in 2015, told the Times Daily that he will again sponsor the legislation in the house but has yet to file the measure.

SB 205 has been referred to the senate Health and Human Services Committee, where it awaits further action.

Rep. Kerry Rich (R-Guntersville) introduced HB 183, which would require physicians to provide a pregnant person seeking abortion with information, including a sonogram, showing the entire fetus and specific information regarding the fetus.

Under state law, a physician must provide a pregnant person with an ultrasound before performing an abortion, and give the patient the option of viewing the ultrasound image.

Susan Watson, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, told that a similar bill in North Carolina has been blocked by federal courts. “This battle has already been fought,” Watson said. “The judges said that women should not have to listen to the description of the fetus by the doctor. That was a million-dollar lawsuit.”

HB 183 would require that the physician provide the patient with a conflict of interest disclaimer that would disclose the physician’s personal financial information.

Among the financial information the physician would be required to disclose: gross income from the previous fiscal year, percentage of income obtained from providing abortion services, and a statement “concerning the monetary loss to the abortion provider which would result from the woman’s decision to carry the pregnancy to term.”

Rich told that his goal is to provide pregnant people with more information about abortion.

“Some people have this idea that this is just a gob of mass and that’s all it is,” Rich said. “I personally have the belief that it’s a living human being, not a future living human being. If people have a better understanding, if they are educated about what they are doing, they might make a different choice.”

Watson said that she’s not aware of any other legislation requiring abortion providers to disclose financial information. “Abortion opponents often try things in Alabama first to see if they can get them passed here,” Watson said.

HB 183 has been referred to the house Health Committee, where it awaits further action.

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