I had some far-off hopes that the general atmosphere of backstabbing chaos currently reigning within the state GOP might have derailed the awful abortion bills pending in the Alabama legislature from moving forward. Unfortunately not; the majorities managed to put everything else aside and force through a vote before the end of the session, and just sent the governor two bills directly intended to obstruct abortion access in the state of Alabama. They haven’t yet been signed into law, and are awaiting the governor’s approval. Here is the latest in Alabama Republican reproductive regulation:
SB 363 is a procedure ban on Dilation and Evacuation (D&E) abortions. Since 2015, a number of state anti-abortion outfits have been pushing these bills (here called
Dismemberment Abortions,a propagandistic phrase coined by anti-abortion activists, parallel to the coining and use of
Partial Birth Abortionto push Intact Dilation and Extraction procedure bans over the last two decades). Since they already won a federal prohibition on the most common procedure used for second-trimester abortions after 20 weeks, they’re now pushing for state prohibitions on the most common procedure used for second-trimester abortions before 20 weeks. If they have their way, some day it will be technically legal to get an abortion in the state of Alabama, it’ll just be illegal to use any actually existing medical technique to get one.
SB 205 is a bizarre TRAP law that would prohibit the Alabama Department of Health from issuing or renewing licenses to abortion clinics located within 2,000 feet or less of a public school. This is the same perimeter that the state uses to exclude convicted sex offenders from living or working near a school. The bill’s sponsor claims that it is intended to prevent children from seeing the
chaosthat surrounds abortion clinics. By
chaos,he means anti-abortion protesters; when a howling crowd of anti-abortion protesters harasses your building every business day, Republican state legislators decide that instead of convincing the anti-abortion to move, you have to pick up and move your building. The bill appears deliberately designed to force two of the five clinics in the state (Huntsville and Tuscaloosa) to shut down temporarily and undergo the expense of relocating. The Huntsville clinic in particular is in its current location, near a public middle school, because two years ago the state legislature forced it to close down and relocate there from its former downtown location with a previous TRAP law mandating special building standards for abortion clinics which were impossible to meet in their downtown location. So forcing them to shut their doors for months and relocate to their present location near a Huntsville middle school, the state legislature turns around and says
Ha, nope, not there.Some day, if they have their way, you’ll technically be legally permitted to get an abortion in Alabama, it’s just that there will be not a square inch of land left in the state where anyone can actually operate a clinic.
These bills continue years of a deliberate policy of harassment by constant, ever-changing, unpredictable, ever-more-invasive hyperregulation of clinics, by anti-abortion legislators who pile on layer after layer of invasive hyperregulation, with an overt intent to destroy de facto access to abortion in Alabama without ever enacting a formal de jure ban that would be overturned in court. While politicians continue to pretend that abortion rights aree primarily a political battle conducted between those who favor permissive policies and those who favor restrictive policies, in real life, on the ground, the most dangerous threat to abortion and reproductive healthcare is the ever-growing, ever-shifting expansive power of the state to harass and regulate providers out of existence through licensure requirements and invasive, micromanaging targeted regulation.
The ACLU has a petition up urging the governor to veto these invasive laws:
- There are no exceptions to the ban for pregnancies that resulted from rape or incest, there is no general exception for abortions necessary for the health of the mother; the only exception is that the procedure is allowed only if
necessary to prevent serious health risk,defined in the text as meaning
a condition that so complicates her medical condition that it necessitates the abortion of her pregnancy to avert her death or to avert serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.↩