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Alabama Lawmakers Pass Bill Banning Virtually All Abortions In State, Governor Expected To Sign

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The Alabama State Senate passed a bill on Tuesday that would effectively ban abortion in the state, bringing the nation’s most restrictive abortion legislation one step closer to becoming law. Republican Gov. Kay Ivey has not said if she will sign or veto the bill.


As Mother Jones reported last week:

The bill would make it a Class A felony for a physician to perform an abortion, and a Class C felony to attempt to perform one, meaning that a doctor could face up to 99 year in prison for performing an abortion and up to 10 years in prison for attempting one. The text of the bill compares aborted fetuses to Jewish victims of the Holocaust, as well as to victims of several other historical mass murders.

The bill could send physicians to prison for performing abortions, but it would protect women who receive them from being held criminally culpable. On Tuesday, the state Senate voted against an amendment that would have allowed for exceptions in cases of rape and incest.

The bill is meant to challenge Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1974 Supreme Court ruling that affirmed a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion. When Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D) asked Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R) what the purpose of the bill was during Tuesday’s state Senate debate, Chambliss replied, “So that we can go directly to the Supreme Court to challenge Roe v. Wade.”

Alabama Democrats argued that the bill would lead women to pursue unsafe abortions, cause unnecessary strife to victims of rape and incest, and cost the state money by setting it up for a legal battle. When Smitherman brought up the risk of women dying from self-imposed abortions, Chambliss said, “I would hope no female would do that in the future.”

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer hinted at the possibility of a reevaluation of Roe in his dissent for a case decided Monday, Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt. “The majority has surrendered to the temptation to overrule Hall even though it is a well-reasoned decision that has caused no serious practical problems in the four decades since we decided it,” Breyer wrote, referring to the five conservative judges’ decision to overturn precedent in Monday’s ruling. Breyer cited Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, a 1992 Supreme Court decision that upheld Roe, as an example of another precedent now at risk, adding, “Today’s decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the Court will overrule next.”

Other states, such as Ohio and Georgia, have recently passed laws banning abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected—usually at around six weeks’ gestation—but Alabama’s bill goes a step further by outlawing abortion entirely.

The ACLU of Alabama is on record saying it will sue if the bill becomes law.

The Human Life Protection Act notes that Alabama has never repealed a state law criminalizing abortion, but because of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, that law is unenforceable. State Rep. Terri Collins (R), who sponsored the new legislation, has been outspoken about her intent to change that.

“This bill is very simple,” she told The Washington Post. “It’s not about birth control or the morning after the pill. It’s about not allowing abortion once the woman is pregnant. The entire bill was designed to overturn [Roe v. Wade] and allow states to decide what is best for them.”

Reproductive rights groups immediately protested the bill’s passage, calling the measure blatantly unconstitutional. It is believed to be the strictest abortion restriction in the country.

“In passing this atrocious bill, Alabama’s state legislators have shown their complete disregard for the U.S. Constitution and the needs of their constituents,” said Katherine Ragsdale, CEO of the National Abortion Federation, in a statement. “Anti-choice politicians have once again demonstrated that they would rather advance their extreme personal agenda than ensure the safety and well-being of their constituents.”

“Alabama’s bill is the anti-abortion opposition’s true agenda on full display — ban abortion, punish women, jail doctors, and shame people seeking care,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, senior staff attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “We will not stand by while politicians endanger the lives of women and doctors for political gain.”

Alabama has only three abortion clinics left in the state. 

If the bill survives a court challenge, it would go into effect six months from when Governor Kay Ivey signs the bill into law. Its most-likely outcome is that it is rendered unconstitutional like similar bills in Kansas, Mississippi, and Iowa.

(Reporting by Mother Jones, NPR, and HuffPost)

Read Alabama’s near-total abortion ban, the strictest anti-abortion bill in America, below:

After Alabama: How 12 court cases could challenge abortion access under Roe vs. Wade

Abortion

St. Louis Abortion Clinic To Defy Missouri, Refuse To Perform Pelvic Exam

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri’s only abortion clinic, already facing the threat of losing its license, says it will defy the state by refusing to perform a required pelvic examination days before an abortion.


Calling the exam requirement “disrespectful and dehumanizing,” a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman confirmed that as of Thursday the St. Louis clinic no longer performs it during a consultation at least 72 hours before an abortion. Doctors do perform a pelvic exam at the time of the procedure.

Plans to drop the preliminary pelvic exam were first reported by CBS News.

Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Bonyen Lee-Gilmore said the exam is not required by state law but is an intrusive health department regulation. The health department didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment but said earlier this month that the pelvic exam at the time of consultation is required by law.

Dr. Colleen McNicholas, an abortion provider at the clinic, said the decision to drop the preliminary exam was based partly on feedback from patients.

“We believe continuing to force an additional invasive and uncomfortable vaginal exam on patients at least three days before her abortion procedure, when it is not medically indicated, and when she will have the identical exam on the day of the abortion procedure, is not patient-centered; it is disrespectful and dehumanizing,” McNicholas said in a statement.

The health department let the clinic’s license lapse as of May 31, but a judge’s order has kept it open and allowed abortions to continue.

Judge Michael Stelzer said the state can’t simply let the license lapse but must decide whether to deny it or renew it. The state’s decision could be announced Friday at a court hearing in St. Louis.

Health department officials have cited concerns at the clinic, including that three “failed abortions” there required additional surgeries and another led to life-threatening complications for the mother, The Associated Press reported Tuesday, citing a now-sealed court filing.

Should the St. Louis facility close, Missouri would be the first state without a functioning abortion clinic since 1974, the year after the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide, according to Planned Parenthood.

The licensing fight in St. Louis comes as lawmakers in Missouri and other conservative states have passed new restrictions that take aim at Roe. Abortion opponents, emboldened by new conservative justices on the Supreme Court, hope federal courts will uphold laws that prohibit abortions before a fetus is viable outside the womb, the dividing line the high court set in Roe.

Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed legislation on May 24 to ban abortions at or beyond eight weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for medical emergencies but not for rape or incest. Efforts to put the new law to a public vote are tied up in court.

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Missouri’s Only Abortion Clinic Will Remain Open, Judge Rules

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — A judge has issued an order allowing Missouri’s only abortion clinic to continue providing the service.


St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer ruled Friday, just hours before the St. Louis Planned Parenthood clinic’s license to perform abortions was set to expire. He issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting Missouri from allowing the license to lapse.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services had declined to renew the license. It cited concerns with “failed abortions,” compromised patient safety and legal violations at the clinic. Agency officials also wanted to interview additional physicians at the clinic.

Planned Parenthood officials had said that if the license lapsed, Missouri would become the first state without an abortion clinic since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision legalizing abortion nationwide.

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As Missouri’s Last Abortion Provider Nears Closing, Neighboring Clinics Prepare

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With hours to go before the expiration of a state license that allows a Planned Parenthood health center in Missouri to perform abortions, clinics in neighboring states say they’re preparing for an influx of additional patients.


“No one one knows what’s gonna happen in the next day or two, but we have to be ready for this clinic to be closed, and for patients to have nowhere else to go,” said Dr. Erin King, who runs a health center in Illinois across the river from the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis.

King said her facility, the Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City, Ill., has been hiring additional doctors and medical support staff for more than a year in preparation for the possibility that abortion could be restricted in Missouri. Illinois is one of several states considering legislation to expand abortion rights as states including Missouri work in the opposite direction, passing laws banning the procedure in the early stages of pregnancy.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson last week signed a law criminalizing most abortions after eight weeks. That law has yet to take effect, but the dispute between Planned Parenthood and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services over regulatory enforcement is threatening to shut down abortion services at Missouri’s last remaining clinic.

Parson said this week that Missouri health regulators have safety concerns about the clinic. Planned Parenthood officials say they’ve done all they can to comply, and accuse the state of arbitrarily enforcing regulations for political reasons. The two sides have been unable to reach an agreement, and Planned Parenthood has filed a lawsuit asking for a restraining order to prevent the center from being forced to stop offering the procedure.

Providers like King in neighboring states say they’re watching the situation and expecting to take additional patients from Missouri.

“[This] is happening much more quickly than any of us anticipated, so we’re really scrambling” to communicate with patients and open up additional appointments for abortions in the coming days, King said.

Michele Landeau of Gateway Women’s Access Fund, which helps Missouri women pay for abortions, said her organization is looking at ways to connect patients with clinics outside the state and help arrange for transportation, childcare, and other needs.

“People are confused, and they’re scared, and it’s pretty chaotic-feeling right now,” Landeau said.

Abortion providers in other neighboring states said they’re expecting additional patients from Missouri, and planning accordingly.

“We will do our very best to serve any women from Missouri that need to see us,” said Rebecca Terrell of CHOICES health center in Memphis, Tenn. “It may be that we have to add hours; we may have to open on a Saturday; we may have to make some changes, but we will make sure that everybody gets seen.”

In Wichita, Kansas, Julie Burkhart of the Trust Women clinic, said she would expect to see more patients from central, southern, and western Missouri if the St. Louis facility stops providing abortions. She said her facility might look at expanding its hours, but it would take time to hire, train, and license new staff members.

Abortion rights opponents have praised Missouri regulators’ scrutiny of the St. Louis clinic.

In a statement, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, said ending abortion services there “would be good news for health and safety.”

If the St. Louis clinic loses its license, some hospitals in the state could still offer the procedure, primarily for medical emergencies, Planned Parenthood officials say.

(Reporting by NPR)

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