I attended the public hearing on AL HB 57 having the the misnomer of being called the “Women’s Health and Safety Act.” I had a chance to speak to this bill. Here is what I said:
Let’s be honest about what HB 57 really is about: The fiscal notes make the intention of this bill very clear. It is to shut down medical clinics–not to protect the lives of women. This bill is about government interfering in the individual rights of women having domain over their own bodies. Plain and simple. This is not about safer medical clinics. Stiff regulations with class C felony charges for non-compliance are an attempt to bully clinics into closing if they are unable to comply with the regulations because of cost factors to come up to the new codes—codes that include interfering with Doctors determining the safest course of action for their patient. Do not be deceived by HB 57 it is not about safety it is about interference in choices women make over their own bodies. Women will seek abortions whether there are clinics in this state or not. The question is will the women have them in medical clinics or in some alley as they did 40 years ago before Roe v Wade. I urge you to vote down HB 57.
There were several people who were invited to speak first in favor of this bill. Not as many as I anticipated and those opposing this bill far outnumbered them. Two were women with heart wrenching tales of being whisked through back door entrances and then left alone after the procedure. One woman had her abortion in 1977. The second woman’s tale was even more harrowing, claiming she had become pregnant before her wedding and her fiance forced her at gunpoint to have an abortion and then after her being coerced never saw her fiance again. She then made the claim that she can no longer have children because the abortion resulted in her having cancer three times making her unable to conceive children.
I found both of these heart wrenching stories to be poor choices to support this bill. The first one because the event took place in 1977. I was to find out by later testimony the clinic she went to for her abortion was closed decades ago because of sub-standards. The second story because being coerced at gun point to get an abortion is a criminal offense and she is blaming the clinic instead of her assailant. Further, studies have proven there is no link between abortions and cancer. While these stories were heart wrenching they didn’t have much credibility to address the current situation of the state’s remaining five clinics.
One of the clinic operators from Montgomery spoke to the requirement that doctors must have attending privileges at local hospitals. She stated that the doctors at her clinic come from Atlanta and Washington, DC. She stated that doctors that only perform abortions cannot receive attending privileges at local hospitals in Alabama. But this fact alarmed me. No one asked the obvious question. Why did this clinic have to rely on doctors from distant and out of state cities like Atlanta and Washington DC? Are there no doctors already in Montgomery willing to perform abortions?
In the abortions arranged in this state there have only been 6 deaths of women as a result. And the two most recent deaths occurred over 20 years ago. Another opponent stated in any other medical field this kind of statistic would be hailed as a sign of excellence. She further stated that women are 14 times more likely to die from a pregnancy she didn’t want than if she had an abortion.
One of the requirements of HB 57 is to require clinics to meet the standards prescribed in the rules for “office-based procedures – moderate sedation/analgesia,” and shall meet all other requirements in those rules, including the recommended guidelines for follow-up care, requirements for recovery area, assessment for discharge, reporting requirements, and registration requirements.