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Alabama Governor Robert Bentley Tuesday signed into law a measure that will increase regulations on the state's abortion clinics. The governor and fellow Republicans hailed the legislation, known as the Women's Health and Safety Act, as a way of making abortions safer for women through improved and strengthened standards.
"As a physician, and as a governor, I am proud to sign this legislation," Governor Bentley said. "This bill provides appropriate standards of care. It has been endorsed by pro-life groups across Alabama. This is a key piece of legislation in the House Republican Agenda, and I am honored to stand with legislative leaders and sign this bill."
The governor signed the legislation at the Capitol with its sponsors and legislative leaders surrounding him.
"With the Governor's signature on the Women's Health and Safety Act, Republicans are fortifying our efforts to safeguard the health and safety of Alabama women and defend the rights of the unborn," said Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn). "Since the U.S. Supreme Court unfortunately allows abortion to remain legal, this law is imperative to ensure that the procedure is performed in the most safe and healthy environment possible."
Opponents of the measure see the legislation as a way of pushing abortion providers out of business, and they're promising to fight it. Planned Parenthood Southeast says "unreasonable" and "medically unnecessary restrictions" may force some abortion providers to close, denying women a place to have a legal abortion.
The Women's Health and Safety Act requires clinics that provide abortions to meet the same facility standards as ambulatory care centers. The legislation also calls for doctors who provide abortions to adhere to stricter standards, including having admitting privileges at local hospitals. The bill also includes enforcement procedures for doctors or clinics that fail to comply with the new health and safety standards.
Planned Parenthood Southeast says it's particularly worried about the provision requiring doctors who have provided abortions in Alabama to secure hospital admitting privileges, pointing to neighboring Mississippi, which has similar requirements. There, the state's only abortion provider's doctors were denied such privileges at any of the seven eligible hospitals it applied to. It remains open, but it is struggling to keep its license.
PPE contends that having hospital privileges aren't even required to be a licensed medical provider and, "do not hasten a patient's care in the event of an emergency." PPE says by making providers find hospitals that grant admitting privileges, which come with the hospitals own policies, the law "gives hospitals complete decision-making power..." over whether the doctor is accepted.
"I am strongly pro-life," Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey said. "We can't ban abortion—that's a federal issue that's been confirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court—but at the state level, we can regulate and control unsafe health practices. I support the Legislature's efforts to restrict the operation of unsafe clinics to help ensure a woman's health."
"The women of Alabama deserve the highest possible standard of healthcare, particularly at such a difficult time," said the bill's House sponsor, Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin (R-Indian Springs Village). "If an abortion clinic is truly dedicated to providing adequate care, ensuring dependable safeguards and putting patients' needs before profits, it will embrace this legislation rather than oppose it. For far too long, Alabama has had more health regulations in place to protect your cat or dog at a vet clinic than it does for a woman receiving an abortion; this law will correct that shameful disparity."
"In these difficult economic times, when Alabamians need more access to affordable health care. Gov. Bentley may succeed in taking health care providers away from women,"said Nikema Williams, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood Southeast. "While we struggle with economic recovery, Bentley has all but assured wasting valuable taxpayer dollars on what will likely be a long legal battle."
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