Tomorrow at 1 PM, the Alabama House of Representatives will take up legislation to ban abortion providers from operating within 2,000 feet of a school. The item is listed as #7 on the Special Order Calendar.
Meanwhile, the House voted last week to slash state departmental budgets again to resolve a long-foreseen gap between Alabama’s spending and its income. Senators are working on a competing proposal to legalize casinos and a lottery in the deeply-religious state. The only apparent point of agreement is that Alabama shouldn’t raise any taxes, as Governor Robert Bentley has proposed.
No legislative contrast could better reveal the disparate priorities of conservative Southern politicians. With just three weeks left in Alabama’s legislative session, House lawmakers move quickly to satisfy their partisan culture warriors and ‘protect the unborn’ while denying anything for the already-born, lest they offend the god of mammon doing so.
Written by James Henderson, forced-birth activist and former head of the Alabama Christian Coalition, HB527 is specifically aimed at shutting down a particular reproductive health care facility that gives him a special case of heartburn. Located down the street from a Huntsville public school, the Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives (AWCRA) has an attached private parking lot which prevents Henderson’s gang of creepy stalkers and weird hobbyists from getting in the faces of women who visit the clinic.
The bill, which consciously equates legal and Constitutionally-protected reproductive health care service providers with sex offenders, is bound to fail an expensive legal challenge. BU has reported on this emerging battle for months because it highlights the underlying, monumental hypocrisy of forced-birth activists who sue all the way up to the Supreme Court to strike down state-mandated ‘buffer zones’ between themselves and the clinics.
In selling his bill to the House Health Committee, Henderson argued that his own group’s activities — displaying pictures of rendered fetuses, jaywalking, shouting through a bullhorn, taking video of people coming and going from the facility — will be too disruptive to the school campus down the street. During the hearing, Henderson’s supporters even threatened to be as rowdy as possible unless their bill passes.
Since AWCRA reopened at its new location on Sparkman Drive, Huntsville officials have been forced to erect orange nets, and later locked gates, to prevent forced-birth activists from using the school parking lot to conduct their activities.
The former junior high building, which is being converted into a magnet school and will reopen in the Fall, has no windows for students to observe any protests outside.
Like many states, a series of TRAP (Targeted Regulations Against Providers) laws has closed clinics in Alabama, making it increasingly difficult and expensive for women to access abortion services. The new location in Huntsville was chosen to comply with the state’s deliberately-burdensome regulatory approach.
Contrary to the alacrity with which state legislators attack abortion access, consider the following dismal statistics that they are unable to ameliorate, year after year.
Alabama has the country’s most homeless children, places an unfair tax burden on its poorest people, ranks fifth from the bottom in per capita income, lags behind Russia and war-torn Lebanon in infant mortality, has the longest wait time for agency response to child abuse of any reporting state, is one of the three worst states in the union for low birth weight, and is currently considered the last place in America you’d want to have a baby.
None of these problems will be improved by further cuts to state departments. They will only get worse.
Bills like HB527 represent a theft of public resources. They are a waste of limited time and energy during Alabama’s 30-day legislative session, divert millions of dollars in legal fees to defend doomed laws, and satisfy only the vindictive demands of forced-birth activists without addressing the pressing needs of children born every day in the Heart of Dixie.