Last week, Alabama legislators held hearings on a series of bills being pushed by the forced-birth lobby to shut down a Huntsville clinic and further restrict women’s access to reproductive health care in the state. All three bills will be voted on by the House Health Committee tomorrow at 9 AM.
Below is a video of the hearing for HB 527, which would insert a 2000-foot buffer zone between any clinic providing abortion services and the nearest school facility. The legislation is virtually certain to fail a federal challenge. James Henderson, the last speaker in the video, is also the driving force behind the bill, which targets a specific clinic in Huntsville, and borrowed the 2000-foot ‘buffer zone’ from Alabama’s sex offender statute.
Coming in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court ruling which naively swept away ‘buffer zones’ between protesters and clinics, HB 527 draws the forced-birth movement’s blazing hypocrisies into stark relief.
Henderson (see photo at top), who once led the Alabama Christian Coalition, has apparently decided to leverage the Supreme Court’s ruling by arguing that threats of antiabortion violence and intimidation ought to count against the clinics instead of the forced-birth activists. Voicing this twisted point of view, the first speaker before the committee was Henderson’s friend Chris Horn, whose bid for a seat in the state legislature fell miserably short last year. The second speaker, Madison County ADA Bob Becher, claimed to be an “unofficial representative” of the school community and worried that children will be exposed to confrontational anti-choice tactics. (Ironically, Henderson’s group constantly brings small children to their protests as a kind of visual punctuation, yet none of the adult participants ever worries about what those children might see.) The third speaker, forced-birth activist Cindy Adams, threatened that if the bill did not pass, she will begin harassing and intimidating the school students.
Underlying this ‘debate’ is the fact that the clinic’s previous location was also close to a school, but no such objections were ever raised at the time. Henderson merely dislikes the new clinic location because the attached parking lot allows patients to enter and leave without giving him a chance to get in their faces and spit out his denunciations; the ‘buffer zone’ is merely a new tactic in the same fight as before. Furthermore, the school near the new location has no windows for students to see any of his group’s activities at the clinic.
The same committee is also voting on HB 491, a so-called ‘conscience clause’ bill. Duplicating federal legislation that has already existed for years, the bill is modeled on Georgia’s law, which recently came under fire when a pharmacist unilaterally denied medication to a miscarrying mother. Exempting health care providers from being ‘forced’ to perform abortions, sterilizations, human cloning, or human embryonic stem cell research against their will, the bill solves a problem that no one is having.
Below is video of the hearing on HB 491. Note that not one speaker could actually present the panel with a single example of an Alabama resident losing their job because they didn’t want to give a man a vasectomy, or because their boss required them to operate a new human cloning machine.
HB 405, the ‘Fetal Heartbeat Act,’ would also ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. Not only is this effectively an abortion ban, as a practical matter the bill would force women to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound procedure in order to receive an abortion. Known to their detractors as ‘rape-by-the-state’ bills, these laws are inherently unconstitutional and never survive the scrutiny of federal courts, but are nevertheless very popular with forced-birth activists around the country who are steeped in such slogans as “abortion stops a beating heart.” No video of the hearing for HB 405 is available, but according to AL.com, representatives of two major forced-birth groups spoke for the bill.
Amie Beth Shaver, who was Miss Alabama 1994, said she represents the millions of lives that have been saved by a woman choosing to continue her pregnancy rather than have an abortion.
Her birth parents and the birth parents of her siblings were teenagers, who “recognized our humanity as wholly separate with distinct heartbeats completely separate from their own,” she said.
Shaver, of Birmingham, asked lawmakers to consider approving Collin’s bill that would ban abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected.
All three bills are expected to pass the committee, whereupon their biggest challenge will be to receive a floor vote from both houses of the legislature before the session ends. If passed, all three bills are expected to be challenged, and to lose these challenges, with taxpayers on the hook for their doomed defense. Meanwhile, due to continuing budget woes, Alabama is getting ready to eliminate child care funding for 17,000 Alabama children and remains one of the three worst states in the country for preterm births.