Is the South About to Become a Legal Abortion-Free Zone?
If Alabama is successful in following Mississippi’s lead and passes a host of new regulations designed to drive abortion clinics in the state out of business, then we will have officially entered into a new phase in the abortion wars: the creation of legal abortion-free states.
The Alabama House of Representatives just advanced The Women’s Health and Safety Act, a bill that mandates an Alabama-licensed physician be present at every abortion and also requires those doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals. Hospitals have wide discretion in granting admitting privileges, and the permeation of Catholic-owned and affiliated hospitals has resulted in denial of privileges to practitioners who perform abortion.
It’s this issue — admitting privileges — that is tied up in legal challenges in Mississippi where the state’s only provider fights to stay open. A proposed amendment to the Alabama bill would have prohibited hospitals from that very practice, from denying admitting privileges to doctors solely because they perform abortions. But that amendment was rejected by lawmakers.
The law is a change from current practice where clinics partner with local doctors who have hospital admitting privileges to provide follow-up care. The practice has proven safe, efficient and cost-effective, but anti-abortion legislators hope to change the narrative and argue that these new requirements are there to “empower” women. “This truly is a women’s rights bill,” state Representative Mary Sue McClurkin, a Republican who sponsored the legislation, said in a statement. “It protects the right of a woman having an abortion to have it in a safe and healthy environment.”
Lawmakers have long pursued anti-abortion measures in the name of protecting women, so this rhetoric shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. But it does represent a shift, and one that was informed in part by the November 2012 election. Support for abortion rights is at an all-time high and candidates that were openly and aggressively hostile to women’s rights lost badly in November. This fact is clearly not lost on politicians like McClurkin who have stepped up in the party’s re-branding efforts by offering a law that will take away women’s fundamental right to write their own destinies all in the name of advancing women’s rights.
Photo from infowidget via flickr.