HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Two bills working their way to the state House floor aim to restrict the availability of abortions in north Alabama and across the state.
The bills were heard in the House Health Committee on Wednesday and seem to have Republican support.
House Bill 527
House Bill 527 is short – a mere three paragraphs and a synopsis – but if passed would allow the Alabama Department of Public Health to refuse a license to abortion clinics that are within 2,000 feet of a public school.
It would effectively shut down the Alabama Women’s Center on Sparkman Drive in Huntsville. The clinic moved to the Sparkman Drive location after an Alabama law increased safety and building standards for clinics offering abortions.
It is across the street from the currently-closed Ed White Middle School.
“We were forced to move our clinic from the downtown location because of the TRAP laws they enacted. Now that we’ve found a clinic that suits all of our needs, they’re using their next excuse to try to shut us down,” said Jayme Calhoun, a spokeswoman for Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates.
She asserts the clinic’s location across from a school may not be ideal, but isn’t the real problem. She points to what goes on outside.
“We make a very strong point not to protest here. We simply escort women in and out and keep them free from harassment on our property,” said Calhoun. “It would make a lot more sense for [the protesters] to stop [protesting] and make this a nondescript building, than make a legitimate business close.”
Protesters often line the sidewalk outside the clinic. Pro-life activist Reverend James Henderson can often be seen speaking and preaching through a speaker system during those protests.
Henderson says the bill is gaining Republican support.
“I’ve spoken with House Leader Mike Hubbard and he thinks it will pass. We’re working the legislature very hard and finding very good support for it,” said Henderson.
State School Board member Mary Scott Hunter and Representative Mike Ball have both expressed their support for the bill. Representative Jim Patterson is also listed as a co-sponsor. The bill is sponsored by Representative Ed Henry.
House Bill 405 “Fetal Heartbeat” Bill
The House Health Committee also held a public hearing on the so-called “fetal heartbeat” bill that opponents said would ban most abortions.
The bill by Republican Rep. Terri Collins would prohibit abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can happen as soon as six weeks gestation. Collins said Wednesday it is “common sense” to define life with a heartbeat.
“There’s no way this could be upheld in court because it closes the window so much for women to be able to access abortion, it virtually makes it impossible for her to get one,” said Calhoun.
Opponents said similar proposals have been ruled unconstitutional in other states.
*The Associated Press contributed to this report