The statewide group Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates (ARRA) has received multiple requests for assistance from North Alabama women this week. Prohibited from receiving medical care in their own community by Alabama's TRAP law, they're faced with traveling to Nashville, Tuscaloosa, or even Columbus, GA.
Several members of the group have helped these women with personal donations, driven hours with them to appointments in other cities/states, and cobbled together groups of volunteers who are willing to offer free lodging and/or transportation. As one frustrated volunteer noted: "It's like we're setting up a $%$# Underground Railroad."
During the federal court hearings this spring on the TRAP law, a witness predicted just this situation, calling the laws, "a tax on women."
ARRA sent us this plea for assistance & asked if our LIA community members can help by donating online here.
"As many of you know, our women's clinic in Huntsville was unable to meet the building requirements of the TRAP law. We are starting to get calls for help from young women needing an abortion. We want to start this fund to help with travel expenses and a partial funding of the abortion when needed. It will also cover pregnancy tests or Plan B (the morning after pill) for those that can't afford it. West Alabama Women's Center in Tuscaloosa has agreed to take the Huntsville patients until the clinic is reopened.
Thank you SO much!!
Tuscaloosa is a 2 1/2 hour drive from Huntsville and Alabama has a 48 hour waiting period law (because, you know, pregnant women are flighty, right? We have to stop them from just pulling into an clinic and impulsively getting an abortion). That means women who travel there either have to pay for meals & hotels or make two trips, for a total of 10 hours travel time, 2 days lost from work/school, and added cost for gas. The extra travel cost is not insubstantial: 600 miles total at 30 miles/gallon is 20 gallons of fuel and adds about $70 to the cost - more than a day's pay for a minimum wage worker who's probably already missing work to travel.
No donation is too small - no donation is too large! It all goes to help women facing situations that are already difficult both financially and emotionally. Thanks to the Alabama Legislature, the whole experience is just that much harder.
This is a short post, but an important one. The state & anti-choice protestors will do whatever is necessary to keep the Huntsville women's clinic closed. That's an action that leaves a gaping hole in abortion services in Alabama. It's a hole that stretches from Tuscaloosa to Nashville.
Campers... will we permit this? NOOOOOO!
This is easy. You don't have to show up anywhere to escort (although that would be nice). You don't have to write a letter (although you could do that too).
This is in response to the TRAP bill passed by the legislature this session. Clinics have new requirements to meet - requirements that do NOT apply to most other outpatient facilities, hence the name "Targeted Regulations Against Abortion Providers."
Clinic officials did submit blue prints for a new location to move the clinic off Sparkman Drive for approval from the state Department of Public Health.
According to Brian Hale, Deputy General Counsel with Alabama Department of Public Health, the blue prints have not been approved yet because they're waiting for response from the clinic's architect on making minor alterations to the interior.
It's not clear if that can be done by Tuesday's deadline.
"The clinic is still going through the approval process with the state," said Clinic Administrator, Dalton Johnson, "We will continue the fight to re-open at the new facility while we continue to follow every letter of the law."
"It will be a sad day for us to close our doors because it means women of North Alabama will no longer have access to the multiple health care services we provide, not just abortions," said Johnson.
The clinic has already jumped other hurdles in the law requiring its physicians to have admitting privileges to area hospitals and adhering to the 48-hour waiting period requirement for women to have the procedure.
While this is a sad event, it's not the end of the story. Without the tireless efforts of pro-choice activists & volunteers, the original clinic might have closed well before the TRAP bill passed. So it's a good time to give a shout out to the dedicated group of volunteer clinic escorts who have showed up no matter what the weather (literally, the last time I was there, it was sleeting and about 20 degress outside, but the experienced escorts weren't fazed a bit), no matter how many antis thronged the sidewalks (adults & kids who sang the delightful "happy birthday dead baby" song), and kept their heads no matter what the provocation.
Here's some of our coverage of these local heroes:
The ACLU of Alabama invites you to its third annual "Roe on the Rocks" happy hour. It's a fun, informal event where you can meet ACLU staff and network with like-minded people. The event itself is free, with a cash bar.
Huntsville anti-choice protesters are worried about the "impact on children" if the city's lone women's clinic moves from its present location to a new building that complies with the state's TRAP law. The problem, they assert, is that the new location is directly across from a middle school and so represents both a safety and moral hazard for the children.
Well, if anyone should recognize a "moral hazard," it's this group of zealots.
Oddly though, they haven't raised this particular concern about the current location, which is 2 blocks from Huntsville Middle School and two buildings away from Huntsville Hospital's child care center. And, as clinic supporters point out, nobody could distinguish either the current or future location from any other medical facility if it weren't for the protesters out front waving signs, passing out fetus dolls, and busing in school children to sing such ditties as "Happy Birthday, Dead Baby" to women entering the building.
In their rather unusual version of logic, bringing their own small children to stand on the sidewalk in front of a busy 5-lane road and busing in children from local Christian shools is fine, but having children attending the school across the 5-lane road, who are inside the building learning most of the day, is a problem. They also weren't worried about it when they picketed this very same building last year because the doctor who occupied it was pro-choice.
Publicity-hungry politico, Chris Horn, joined the group in a protest yesterday outside the new clinic location and complained about the effect on neighborhood property values. Trouble is, the current clinic location is next to the historic Twickenham District, one of the most pricey and exclusive areas of the city. If the clinic and the sign-waving "counselors" out front haven't been an issue for residents there, it's unlikely that the new location will be an issue either.
Now, the problem here is that the building is already zoned for a medical facility, the clinic's owner has completed the purchase, and it complies with the new anti-abortion TRAP laws. That means the anti-choice people had to find a new complaint, so they went with the easy choice: racism.
Abortion advocates are targeting the black community in northwest Huntsville with plans to relocate its downtown clinic to a facility on Sparkman Drive, anti-abortion protestors said Saturday.
Yes campers, locating a reproductive health clinic that provides affordable services to women including pap smears, STD screenings, pregnancy tests, birth control, and abortion in an existing building that's zoned as a medical clinic and happens to be in a low-income, mostly African American neighborhood is now a racist act. The clinic welcomes all women - even if they don't have health insurance, which many do not since our state declined to expand Medicaid. Have you ever tried to call a local OB/GYN and make an appointment? The first question is "What kind of insurance do you have?" See how much farther you get if the answer is "none."
What are these protesters doing to help those women? Nothing.
But don't expect to hear any of that from the Huntsville Times reporter, Paul Gattis, whose article on the protest was rightly condemned as biased. He defended himself in the comments this way:
Yep. All you "pro-abortion" harridans stop yer whinin'! If y'all want to get out and wave picket signs and block the sidewalk in front of legal businesses, we'll be happy to give you the coverage you deserve.
EXCEPT.... remember the Women's Rights rally in Huntsville in April? The one that we covered with these posts that included video and partial transcripts of the speeches:
You saw none of that from the local newspaper, although several TV stations did stop by. So apparently, when hundreds gather to rally for women and statewide candidates for office attend, it gets a "yawn" from Mr. Gattis & his fellow reporters. But when a couple of dozen protesters scream about reproductive choice being some sort of racist plot, they're all over the story.
As the federal court hearing on Alabama's TRAP bill continues, there was some really chilling testimony last week from an former undercover agent who has worked on domestic terrorism cases. It's worth recapping here as part of our coverage because this weekend marks the 5th anniversary of Dr. George Tiller's murder in Wichita, KS - as he was attending church.
Last Wednesday (5/28) Margarent Moore testified about clinic terrorism. This woman isn't only knowledegable and experienced - she's a badass.
Some highlights from her resume:
Undercover narcotics cop for the NYPD.
Joined the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms) & worked undercover for them infiltrating the IRA.
Worked on the first World Trade Center bombing.
While at the ATF, she also worked undercover in investigating abortion clinic bombings in the 1980's in NY, WA, and IA.
Named the first female Special Agent in Charge of the ATF. She stayed there for 23 years.
After retiring from the ATF, Moore joined the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) as Director of Law Enforcement Operations.
She is now retired, but shared a wealth of information about her experiences fighting crime and domestic terrorism.
Moore described how clinic violence stops doctors from wanting to get into the field, and how it's hard to find people to work at the clinics. Domestic terrorism means people get shot, maimed, and their right to privacy is always violated because the violent people go to any means necessary to stop abortion. (The state at this point actually had the nerve to object and state that she was not an expert on clinic violence, which Judge Thompson overruled.)
She shared a retrospective of clinic violence through the previous 4 decades:
The first act of arson at a clinic was in 1976, and got worse into the 1980's.
During one year in the 80's, bombings and arsons happened 25 times.
Mass protests and blockades also started in the 80's, with sometimes up to 200 people participating in these activities in places such as Atlanta.
Abortion opponents stepped up their game in the 1990's and began murdering doctors. Dr. Gunn in Pensacola was killed in 1993. Dr. Britton at the same Pensacola clinic was killed by Paul Hill, who also killed the doctor's escort/bodyguard, a retired Lt Col and injured the Lt Col's wife. Several other doctors were killed then the Birmingham clinic was bombed by Eric Rudolph, who also bombed a clinic in Sandy Springs, GA and a gay nightclub, too. Canada had murders as well.
Then Dr. Tiller was killed in 2009, after surviving a previous attempt to kill him by the Army of God. The Army of God is a designated terrorist group by the US Gov't and DOJ.
Roeder (Tiller's killer) stalked the Doctor for two weeks before shooting him in his church.
Moore's job was to stay in touch with clinics nationwide and alert them about any strange activities because the Army of God had threatened almost everyone.
US Marshals were brought in to watch the other doctors that worked with Dr. Tiller.
Death threats came in to other clinics regularly.
Although Roeder says he acted alone, Cheryl Sullinger's (of Operation Rescue) phone number was found in his car.
Moore also described the "wanted posters" and the websites that post people's entire information including family members & social security numbers. She said some of these groups have "manuals" just like Al Qaeda.
For instance, last week, the state tried to refute the notion that the TRAP (Targeted Regulations Against Abortion Providers) regulations amount to "a tax on women". Plaintiffs asserted this because, if several clinics in Alabama are forced to close, then women will incur extra costs when they have to travel longer distances and pay for overnight stays due to the new 48 hour waiting period. Not to mention losing pay at work, paying for child care during that time, etc.
Majority of women in AL getting abortions are living in extreme poverty - estimates are around 70+%. Her estimates on the additional costs (travel, lost wages, childcare, ect) are as follows: Montgomery to Tuscaloosa: $415, B'ham to Tuscaloosa: $231, and Mobile to Tuscaloosa: $651 (Mobile to Tuscaloosa includes 2 night stay at hotel, average hotel rate of $93).
One of the state's lawyers blew off those concerns as well as the $93/night hotel cost. He asked about those hotels he sees that advertise rooms for $39 or less. Then he tossed out this nugget:
...since 40% of women seeking an abortion have not had a child, childcare isn't an issue for everyone. "Send the kids to grandma's with food! Do it while the kids are in school! Huntsville and Tuscaloosa both have clinics on Saturday so do it when you're off work!"
And furthermore, the state didn't understand why it's such a big deal to travel to another state:
AG representative kept asking the sociologist who is from CA if she knew where Phoenix City, AL is and if she knew if there was a pedestrian bridge that AL women could just waltz on over into GA on to get an abortion. Seriously.
Abruptly, the state changed tactics and asserted that the issue is all about safety and "continuity of care." (Suddenly, the state is worried about women's health.) If the abortion provider doesn't have local hospital admitting privileges, then the woman's life could be at risk or health compromised.
The state's lawyers tried to drive this point home yesterday, when it put Dr. James Anderson on the stand to talk about the terrible consequences of abortion, the need for doctors with admitting privileges, and his relationship with a controversial anti-abortion activist whose chief claim to fame is a Home Ec degree.
"It would always be helpful," Anderson said during a little over two hours of testimony. "When starting off brand new with a patient, you have to be like a detective . . . if I had a call from an abortion provider giving information, I'm not at all starting in the dark."
So, if the ER doctor just needs a phone call to get up to speed on the patient, why does the clinic doctor need admitting privileges?
A courtroom observer noted this little nugget from Anderson's testimony as well:
He stated that he had had one patient die as result of abortion. She waited for a couple of days (because of worry about the expense) to go to emergency room, and was septic when she got there.
Sounds like the problem in that case was lack of access to medical care. hmmm... maybe the poor woman had already blown her savings on travel expenses, hotels, etc. and was afraid of additional hospital costs.
It might come as a surprise to a practicing physician and highly-paid state attorneys that some people don't have a portfolio full of stocks & a wallet full of credit cards.
Alabama spent a third day in federal court yesterday defending its ill-conceived TRAP anti-abortion bill passed in 2013. The day didn't go well for the state, with the Montgomery Advertiser's Brian Lyman reporting that State Solicitor General Andrew Brasher "visibly and loudly bang[ed] his head on a podium in the courtroom."
The plaintiffs (Planned Parenthood and ACLU of Alabama) led off with an impeccable expert witness, Dr. Paul Fine, Medical Director of Planned Parenthood of the Gulf Coast.
He has over 30 years' experience in OB/GYN & abortion care since the 70's and remembers pre-Roe days.
An Air Force veteran, he settled in TX to open an OB/GYN practice in 1977.
He graduated from the Galveston Police Academy and is a reserve police officer.
He taught the Galveston Police Department how to handle rape kits and how to work with victims of sexual assault.
He teaches OB/GYN students and specializes in teaching abortion care at Baylor, a position he still holds today.
He's the Medical Director for Galveston EMS.
Dr. Fine spent the day explaining that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures, with fewer complications than colonoscopies, childbirth, and other common procedures.
13-15% of pregnancies even end in spontaneous abortion/miscarriages and even those have a higher complication rate than medical or surgical abortion.
6 out of ONE MILLION women will die from abortion or abortion related services compared to 8.8 deaths per 100K for live childbirth.
The state's attorney challenged Dr. Fine about his opposition to requiring admitting privileges for clinic doctors, but Fine wiped the floor with him.
ER doctors are trained to deal with miscarriages, which is the same treatment as an abortion complication.
The ER doctor or OB/GYN on-call is the person who would admit the patient, whether it's an abortion or miscarriage.
The safety of abortion is one reason hospitals won't give admitting privileges to clinic cotors. Hospitals require a certain number of admissions per year for a doctor to get privileges. But abortions aren't that dangerous, so no clinic doctor would qualify.
In Texas, where the TRAP bill (which includes an admitting privilege requirement) has gone into effect, multiple clinics have closed. Women in the Rio Grande Valley are crossing into Mexico and getting potentially dangerous drugs that are on the black market that may not even be what they purport to be. Dr. Fine told Assistant Attorney General Jim Davis that Alabama's TRAP law "will only harm women by making more clinics close and putting women further away from the constitutional care they have every right to."
State lawyers pressed Dr. Fine on "continuity of care," but got nowhere. Fine noted that colonoscopies can go wrong and gastro doctors can't fix common complications like perforations themselves. They have to call in surgeons to fix them. The State even asked him if all doctors had cell phones, he said "I don't know, do all lawyers have cell phones?"
After that, the State called its first witness, George Smith, chairman of the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners. Smith supported the state's assertion that patients can only receive adequate care if the clinic doctor is the person who admits them to the hospital. But... oops!
Under cross-examination from Randall Marshall of ACLU Alabama, Smith said the board did not require physicians to obtain admitting privileges to provide services, and allowed doctors who lived outside the state to perform the procedures.
In fact, Alabama doesn't require any other doctor who performs in-office surgery to have hospital admitting privileges. The requirement only targets clinic doctors, which is why this law is called "Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers."
As always, many thanks to the dedicated ARRA folks who are attending and reporting so thoroughly on these proceedings. Find them Facebook. Some of this article is directly quoted from their report & some is paraphrased; we apprectiate their hard work & willingness to share their reports.
In keeping with GOP supermajority's jobs plan for lawyers, Alabama was in federal court yesterday defending the state's TRAP (Targeted Regulations Against Abortion Providers) law that passed during the 2013 session. Clinic operators testified that all but two clinics in Alabama would be forced to close if the law is upheld:
June Ayers, the owner of Montgomery's Reproductive Health Services, and Staci Fox, CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast and its clinics in Birmingham and Mobile, are challenging the law and were the first witnesses in a federal trial that began Monday. They said enforcement of the law would make it harder for low-income women to getabortions.
"If I close my doors, their access is dramatically, dramatically reduced," Ayers said.
Mississippi, Wisconsin and Texas have laws similar to Alabama, but Texas is the only state where it is being enforced. Testimony in the non-jury Alabama trial in Montgomery continues through June 5. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson will rule after that.
Reproductive rights advocates attended the hearing but weren't allowed to use any electronic recording equipment. Here are some interesting tidbits, however, from the notes posted on the Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates FB page:
Basically the state doesn't give a damn if Mobile and Montgomery have to go out business, Mobile women can go to Pensacola and Montgomery women can go to Columbus, GA. That's all we heard all day long.
Our side is really pushing that this is going to put an undue burden on women by adding costs up to an estimated $651 if women from Mobile travel to Tuscaloosa (bus/taxi or private car costs + childcare + hotel stays due to 48 hour waiting period).
[AG lawyer] said since 40% of women seeking an abortion have not had a child, childcare isn't an issue for everyone. "Send the kids to grandma's with food! Do it while the kids are in school! Huntsville and Tuscaloosa both have clinics on Saturday so do it when you're off work!"
--- Because, of course nobody works on Saturday, right? And with the 48 hour waiting period, you have to take more time off than that - too bad if you don't get paid vacation or sick leave, hon.
Dr. Shelia Katz, a sociologist from CA that studies gender in relation to poverty because up to 70+% of the women in AL that get abortions live below the poverty line.
She (Katz) did a full study and summarized that if the law goes into effect, only Tuscaloosa & Huntsville would be left. AL is the 6th poorest state in the nation, tied with KY. 19.1% overall poverty rate. Mobile has a 19.5% rate, Montgomery is at 20.6%, and B'ham is at 27%. Majority of women in AL getting abortions are living in extreme poverty - estimates are around 70+%. Her estimates on the additional costs (travel, lost wages, childcare, ect) are as follows: Montgomery to Tuscaloosa: $415, B'ham to Tuscaloosa: $231, and Mobile to Tuscaloosa: $651 (Mobile to Tuscaloosa includes 2 night stay at hotel, average hotel rate of $93).
The AG's office kept pushing her on that was pretty high, some cheap hotel they mentioned that I didn't write the name of was like $39 but she told them it had a terrible rating and was described online as nasty, dirty, and "I'd never stay there again".
But that's ok because poor women can just stay in disgusting places that aren't safe, right? She flat out said "this is like a tax on women".
AG representative kept asking the sociologist who is from CA if she knew where Phoenix City, AL is (right on the border with Columbus, GA) and if she knew if there was a pedestrian bridge that AL women could just waltz on over into GA on to get an abortion. Seriously.
Sure, some of that sounds just like the high comedy that comes out of the legislature and is one of the reasons we can't have nice things in Alabama. But the testimony about the harrassment of doctors and clinic staff will make your blood run cold:
Next week, Alabama's backdoor ban on abortion will finally have its day in court. Starting Monday, attorneys for the ACLU and Planned Parenthood will argue the legality of a year-old law requiring that doctors who provide abortions have a specific kind of agreement with a local hospital. Since providers often don't have and can't easily obtain these agreements, called admitting privileges, the law has placed three of the state's five clinics on the brink of closure.
Speaking in Huntsville on Sunday, State Rep. Joe Hubbard discussed his candidacy for Attorney General & castigated the GOP legislative supermajority for "using women as a stepping stone" to political power. He also discussed his support for a bill to allow certified midwives to legally deliver babies in Alabama.
Rep. Hubbard voted in favor of HB489 (the 48 hour waiting period bill) this year both in committee and on the floor of the House and was one of 7 Democrats who voted in favor of the TRAP (targeted regulations against abortion providers) bill last year. In this speech however, he castigated the GOP members who push such bills:
They pursue punitive legislation that inserts government in the bedroom and into the decisions solely between a woman and her partner and her God. For me, that's unacceptable.
Every day, we hear Republicans and TEA party members complaining about over-intrusive government, but the reality is, on their issues, they want government to be as big as possible. That's what we call hypocrisy.
Refreshingly - for an Alabama Attorney General anyway - Hubbard also said this about Attorneys General across the country who have refused to defend unconstitutional laws in court.
The Attorney General of a state has to stand up and defend laws. But if a law is unconstitutional, it's unconstitutional! We're not in the business of passing laws just to get headlines.
Somebody needs to tell that to the Alabama Legislature.
Here's the video. In it, Hubbard looks good, is articulate, and touches on many important points. As with any candidate, it's our job to let him know that we're listening to what he says now & expect that he will follow through when in office.
Ladies, please.... don't you KNOW that you can't be trusted to make these decisions without the help of the Alabama Legislature? I mean, really, how many of you have had those "surging hormones" take over when your were trying on a swimsuit at the local Target and thought: "#$%$ this baby bump! I'm stopping at an abortion clinic on my way home!"
Yeah... it happens.... All. The. Time.
Fortunately, those kindly old white guys voted today to save you from making a decision on the "spur of the moment." They think you need to "think it over" not once, not twice, but three times!
First... when you find out that you're pregnant & it's either an unwelcome surprise or it's great, great, great - until you find out there's a problem.
Second... when you have to brave the sidewalk bullies and make your first visit to the women's clinic (that may be several hours' drive from your home) to discuss your options.
Third... when you brave the sidewalk bullies for the second $%$# time to actually get the medical care that you're legally entitled to. Oh... and take yet another day off work, drive several hours, etc. etc. etc.
As one attendee described today's public hearing, it was "7 white guys, 1 black woman, and 1 white female secretary" in session to pass discuss laws that affect the women of Alabama. And the guys decided that they know better than the gals & their doctors how to handle the female reproductive system.
Democratic Senator Linda Coleman was the only dissenting vote, but she's not the only Democrat on the committee. Once again, we get screwed by the "leaders" in our own party as they happily jump on the "pass unconstitutional bills & cost the state money" gravy train for lawyers. The full roll calls should be available tomorrow. Two senators who have opposed such legislation in the past - Democrat Billy Beasley & Independent Harri Anne Smith - skipped the hearing.
Kudos to those who stood up against the bills, including Joann Cummings and Dr. Hines from Shelby County ER, who spoke from experience as a medical professional:
"These bills intrude into medical care of our patients."
"You are trying to criminalize my job to my patients."
Like that's ever bothered the Legislature before. The Senate is in session now & could take up the 48-hour waiting period bill. Because, of course, that's more important than passing an actual state budget.
Almost lost amid the sound & fury of news coverage of Rep. Alvin Holmes' remark about race and abortion is the fact that our legislators wasted hours debating & passing a package of bills that will do nothing positive for the state. In fact, they're setting up the state to incur even more legal costs as opponents challenge bills like the "fetal heartbeat" bill that outlaws any abortion after a heartbeat is detected - often before a woman even realizes she is pregnant.
The law would allow abortions when prenatal anomalies would end with a stillbirth, but the law makes no exception for victims of rape and incest.
"I just don't think that gives her the right to kill," McClurkin said. [...]
The debate quickly turned to race after McClurkin said that she hoped Roe v. Wade would be overturned and she compared her efforts to that of Brown v. the Board of Education, which ruled segregation of schools unconstitutional.
Ok y'all. We expect Nordgren to say stupid things: she's a malaprop machine and I, for one, love her for it. With every speech, every bill, she gives fodder for blog posts and socks the GOP with another black eye. But Democrats, let's NOT try to match her statement for statement!
Congratulations to Rep. Holmes for handing Republicans a great big issue to whine about - and one that takes the public's focus on the bills that sailed through the House yesterday.
For instance, Rep. Patricia Todd's amendment to HB489 was tabled:
Today I offered an amendment to HB489, which extends the waiting period for an abortion to 48 hours, to provide one million dollars to DHR to promote adoptions in Alabama and one million dollars to the Department of Public Health for comprehensive sex education. This amendment was tabled, but I will continue to work to give real options to women facing an unplanned pregnancy.
First, there's absolutely no medical reason to force a woman to travel to a clinic for an appointment on Monday, then require her to make another trip 2 days later to receive medical care that she's legally entitled to obtain. Newsflash, legislators.... women don't decide on a whim to terminate a pregnancy. Nobody leaves the mall disgruntled because she's gone up a skirt size and impulsively heads straight to the local clinic for an abortion.
The idea that a woman seeking an abortion hasn't already given it serious thought infantalizes women. And the fact that the majority wouldn't even consider an amendment that would make adoptions easier and help prevent unplanned pregnancies in the first place tell us everything we need to know about the real intent of this bill.
Just when you thought it was safe to look away from the uterati trainwreck that's the current Alabama Legislative session, Senator Shadrack McGill strides onto the scene with a "personhood" bill (SB414 - PDF). Hold on to your eyes so they don't roll out of your head. He (or someone literate enough to actually author a bill) defines a zygote as a full person from the moment of fertilization.
This bill would define the term "persons" to include all human beings resulting from the union of the male sperm with the female egg either from sexual intercourse or in the case of in vitro fertilization, the fertilized egg or eggs relied on by a physician for implantation in the uterus.
So that means, from the moment of conception, an egg with fewer than a hundred cells has the same legal and civil rights as... well.... your average male in Alabama. Those cells better enjoy their status, because, at birth, if they have two X chromosomes, they'll find themselves subject to the whims of Alabama Legislators who can barely spell "chromosome," much less legislate effectively on medical matters.
Like your current birth control pills? This law may outlaw them.
Find the IUD to be a reliable, non-hormonal method of birth control? Forget it, sister.
Desperately want to have a child, but stymied by fertility problems of either you or your spouse? Hope you want a litter, because all those eggs need a home, hon.
State Senator Shadrack McGill, himself a graduate of "Quack University," has a long and sordid history with "ladyparts legislation." One of his legislative goals from the 2013 session was to proscribe how infertility doctors could conduct their practice:
Among those goals, said state Sen. Shadrack McGill, is strengthening the state's definition of the beginning of life to state that life begins at conception, even if that conception occurs in a laboratory.
"We need to let physicians know: Any eggs that are fertilized need to be placed in a mother's womb," McGill said. "And another thing: People say it's a woman's body and she has a right to kill the life inside of her womb. But she can't ask the abortionist to kill her, too. Our laws protect you from your own self."
In case this bill sound all-so-dreadfully familiar... it is. The same extremist legislation has been defeated in other states, including MISSISSIPPI! Obviously, McGill has forgotten that Alabama's unofficial state motto is "Thank God for Mississippi," and hopes to take our state where even Mississippians feared to tread.
Cmon... be honest: do you trust this man with your uterus?
This whole, dreadful session can't end soon enough, and campers.... we're only about halfway there!
Hold on to your lady parts, because Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard & his minions think they're better qualified than you - or your doctor - to determine what happens to them. It appears that, when the GOP protests what it calls "putting the government between you and your doctor," they're talking about the federal government. Because they're just a-okay, Jim-dandy fine with wedging a clueless state legislature in the stirrups between you and your OB-GYN.
Four bills passed the Alabama House committee today as a motley cadre of old white guys, assorted hangers-on, & a group of Knights of Columbus men in full regalia cheered the state's latest assault on women's reproductive rights and, by extension, the state budget.
House Bill 490 by Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, R-Indian Springs, would require doctors to check for a fetal heartbeat before abortions and would ban abortions if a heartbeat is detected.
According to the National Institutes of Health, fetal hearbeats can be detected six to seven weeks into a pregnancy. Alabama law currently allows abortions up to 20 weeks.
The GOP says we don't have enough money to expand Medicaid or adequately fund other essential state services, but they have no problem at all passing stupid legislation that will cost the state hundreds of thousands (if not millions) in legal bills.
And they say they're opposed to "frivolous lawsuits!"
As bad as McClurkin's bill is, it isn't the most creepy bill passed today. That award goes to Rep. Kurt Wallace with HB493 - the baby hospice bill:
HB 493 by Rep. Kurt Wallace, R-Maplesville, which would require doctors to give women information about perinatal hospice services before aborting a fetus with a lethal anomaly, a defect reasonably certain to result in death within three months after birth.
Wouldn't that make for a festive baby shower? "Have you decided what you'll do for child care?" "Not yet, we found the most wonderful hospice, but they don't take Medicaid...."
The bill passed the Alabama House on Jan. 21 by a vote of 71-24. It's pending in the Senate. If it passes there, the "rights" of this guy in the video (who is a nurse anesthetist at Huntsville Hospital) will be elevated above your "right" to medical care.
This was filmed at the Women's Clinic in Huntsville yesterday. It sure puts the lie to "sidewalk counseling," doesn't it? Because he clearly says he wants to be heard "inside the building."
All patients deserve to receive the highest quality of care when they seek medical treatment and a health care provider should never deny information or needed care because of his/her personal beliefs. While this bill would not allow a doctor to abandon a woman on her deathbed, it does not provide adequate protections for her health and safety. As medical professionals, we have an ethical duty to ensure that patients have accurate information and are able to make their own medical decisions. The right of a patient to access information and services should always come first.
Unless you want the guy in the video on your surgical team, you better be contacting your senator and talking to everyone you know about the dangers of HB31.
More video of this nurse is on the flip.
NOTE: The original post credited the protestor as working at Crestwood Hospital in Huntsville as well, but our source contacted us to say that they're trying to verify that information. Until they can, we've removed that part of the post. we've confirmed that he does NOT work at Crestwood, but is employed by Huntsville Hospital.
Health care workers take note: Alabama wants you to know that your conscience doesn't matter - unless someone else's uterus is involved. Then, legislators are totally on your side & vow to protect your delicate sensibilities.
So says HB31, sponsored by Rep. Becky Nordgren and passed out of committee yesterday. The bill would allow health care providers to refuse to "perform or participate in any medical health care service" that violates their "moral, religious, or ethical principles," as long as the health care "service" is related to:
Any phase of patient medical care, treatment or procedure that is limited to abortion, human cloning, human embryonic stem cell research, and sterilization, and is related to: Patient referrals, counseling, therapy, testing, diagnosis or prognosis, research, instruction, prescribing, dispensing or administering any device, drug, or medication, surgery, or any other care or treatment rendered or provided by health care providers.
It's pretty clear that Rep. Nordgren is far more worried about ladyparts than she is anyone's conscience. Otherwise, why limit this medical conscience clause to reproductive procedures?
The Jehovah's Witness who doesn't want to work during a blood drive or perform a transfusion will find that that Legislature doesn't care about his/her conscience.But the pharmacist who doesn't want to fill a prescription for Plan B or who thinks unmarried women shouldn't be obtaining birth control is.
So is the white supremacist doctor who can presumably refuse to perform sterilization procedures on white patients or even prescribe birth control pills to white women because he agrees with Pat Buchanan about population trends.
For some reason, the State of Alabama thinks it's fun and easy to pick on women and limit their health care choices, but the wording of this bill, cuts both ways (so to speak). What's going to happen the first time a doctor refuses to prescribe Viagra for an unmarried man or a pharmacist denies his prescription refill based on the "moral" belief that an aging single guy doesn't have any business tomcatting around?
And, for a political party that likes to tout its "business friendly" policies, can you imagine what a nightmare this law would be for hospitals, medical offices, and pharmacies? Imagine trying to draw up a work schedule:
"Let's see, Sally won't fill birth control prescriptions without seeing a marriage license first, but Joe will, so we'll put them on shift together. Bob won't assist with fertility treatments unless the couple is Christian, married, and heterosexual and Kelly is morally opposed to sterilization and refuses to assist with tubal ligations....."
How about this as a solution to the so-called "conscience" problem? If you're opposed to providing health care services that patients need, then don't enter the health care profession. Problem solved. No conscience violated. No stupid law required.
Really, Alabama, let's start applying a variation of Occam's Razor to some of these state "problems." Often, the simplest solution is the best for all concerned.
Anti-choice protestors are increasing in intensity & expanding their presence in the city. For over a year, they've staked out the Alabama Women's Center and provided sidewalk counseling that takes the form of prayers (through a bullhorn), shouting, graphic signs, and songs (like the unforgettable "Happy Birthday, Dead Baby) incident.
In spite of this, the clinic has remained open, aided by a group of local heroes we profiled a few weeks ago:
Twice a week, on a sidewalk near the downtown area, a group of heroes meets in Huntsville, AL. Rain or shine, hot or cold, they gather to support strangers who are making one of the most personal & difficult decisions of their lives. And they do this service for free, as volunteers who work in the face of verbal and even physical harrassment from anti-choice protestors.
So naturally, the antis have moved along to what they consider to be somewhat softer targets: local hospitals and doctors' offices.
Anti-abortion leader James Henderson will hold a "prayer vigil for the unborn" Saturday morning near the main entrance to Crestwood Medical Center.
Henderson, a Morgan County pastor and executive director of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, is inviting "concerned Christians from all church backgrounds" to join him at 9:30 a.m. at the corner of Airport Road and One Hospital Drive in south Huntsville.
He said in a news release that the group will pray for Crestwood to remove from its medical staff two doctors who perform abortions at a Huntsville women's clinic.
Attendance was, well.... limited, as pro-choice organizer Pamela Wills Watters reported:
"The anti-abortion protesters at Crestwood Hospital didn't have a very good turnout at all...maybe 50 or so & they stayed their hour & left. They have more than that at the clinic on Saturday mornings for an hour. We had about 25 pro-choice warriors, plus our big "Pro-choice Y'all" banners. We were much more visible.
Can't help but wonder if they'll be any more "successful" when they demonstrate in front of Ed White Middle School. Anti-choice organizers James Henderson and John Phillip of the Knights of Columbus obtained a permit to picket a local doctor's office. Problem is, there's no sidewalk in front of the office, so they selected the next "best" spot: the sidewalk across the street - that just happens to be directly in front of a public school.
She is a physician at the clinic & Henderson had already threatened to protest her private practice to "shame" her into quitting. Get this.... their permit is from 9-5 Monday - Friday for the sidewalk at Ed White Middle School!! There is no sidewalk on the side of the road that Dr. Robinson's office is on, so they obtained it for across the street. I don't think the parents and faculty are going to appreciate that. I would imagine that the superintendent's office is going to be getting a lot of calls.
I have so much admiration for Watters and the other committed people in her group. It's like they're constantly playing "whack-a-mole" all across the city. But they certainly found a way to "make lemonade." Recently the group began an "adopt-an-anti" fundraiser. You can select your favorite protestor and donate a certain amount each week if he/she shows up. The price goes up if they yell through a bullhorn, cry, or wear a poor copy of a WWII concentration camp outfit (not kidding!). On Wednesday, they earned over $100 in pledged donations.
Why do they do it? A clinic volunteer escort discusses his reasons on the flip.
Twice a week, on a sidewalk near the downtown area, a group of heroes meets in Huntsville, AL. Rain or shine, hot or cold, they gather to support strangers who are making one of the most personal & difficult decisions of their lives. And they do this service for free, as volunteers who work in the face of verbal and even physical harrassment from anti-choice protestors.
This drama plays out twice a week on the days when Alabama Women's Center performs abortions. It's a situation that can get tense, as protestors sing, shout, and otherwise "counsel" women attempting to enter the clinic.
Longtime clinic escort volunteer Melissa Davis described one disturbing incident:
I think the most stressful interaction I've had with any particular anti-abortion person at the clinic was when one woman - who was maybe mentally unstable, or maybe a plant by the regular anti-abortion protestors - threatened to kill me. She did not have any weapons, and at the time it wasn't that scary, but we caught her actions on camera and called the police anyways. This incident was also reported to the FBI as a violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances act.
The woman was extremely disturbed and overwhelmingly hateful towards all the volunteers at the clinic that day, but thankfully after the police cited her and she left, we have not seen her again.
Clinic volunteers have a good reason to be cautious and vigilant about their own personal safety as well as the safety and security of patients and the clinic staff.
At least one protestor has already been convicted of violence. In 1984, Father Edward Markley a Catholic priest, already had a history of multiple arrests when he entered the Women's Community Health Center in Huntsville and assaulted two clinic workers. Markley has been spotted multiple times among the protestors outside the Alabama Women's Center.
Protestors - led by soon to be ex-State Senator Shadrack McGill have also taken on local doctors and hospitals that they allege support abortion because... well... just because. A charge that Crestwood Hospital has forcefully pushed back on. Perhaps McGill thinks this is a good way to end what he calls "premeditated abortions."
The issue has spilled over into the Huntsville City Council as well, as the volunteer escorts and protestors vie for sidewalk space in front of the clinic. Anti-abortion leader James Henderson framed the issue in his customary apocalyptic terms:
The executive director of the Christian Coalition of Alabama says "babies may die" if Huntsville amends its rules for sidewalk protests and other public gatherings. [...] Henderson said pro-life "counselors" need to be near the clinic's driveway in order to speak to women going in for abortions.
"We have to have somebody there to offer help to young women, which means standing by the driveway - one or two people on both sides -- plus space for people to pray," Henderson said Monday. "We can't yield on being there for prayer and support.
That sounds warm & fuzzy, doesn't it?
Except that their version of compassionate counseling includes stunts like this:
Pro-choice marchers recalled a particularly painful event last month when a woman whose baby had died en utero was coming to the clinic to have it removed. In an awful coincidence, that was the day, Watters said, when the pro-life demonstrators collected a children’s choir on the sidewalk to sing “Happy Birthday, Dead Baby” to anyone driving in.
That noxious event happened last October, during the anti-choice movement's self-proclaimed "40 Days for Life," an event that draws hundreds of anti-choice protestors to picket, pray, and.... sing.
This year's "40 Days" has just begun and local women and volunteers need your help and support.
Organizer (and nationally-known artist) Pamela Willis Watters is getting creative in the local response. Volunteers kicked the event off in style when they marched to the "Choose Life" fake clinic and exposed the lies they tell women who seek honest medical information (see the photo above). More events and impromptu rallies are planned.
Want to help? Email Pamela: email@example.com
Note... we'll be following this story throughout the 40 days with photos and video. We encourage anyone who joins the volunteer escorts to share their own photos and personal experiences.