MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a bill that would make it illegal for abortion clinics to set up shop within 2,000 feet of a public school, the same distance required of convicted sex offenders.
Rep. Ed Henry (R-Hartselle) sponsored the legislation in response to a Huntsville abortion clinic’s decision to open up across the street from a local middle school. The Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Rights moved to the location after a law was passed in 2013 requiring them to upgrade their facilities.
“There’s nothing in this that will close the clinic, so long as they’re not in proximity to the school,” Rep. Henry said during debate over the bill, which passed easily by a vote of 79 to 15.
“There’s always protests, there’s back and forth, there’s signs, there’s graphic things said from both sides, the proponents and opponents of abortion,” Henry told the Montgomery Advertiser last month. “This bill contends this is not something that needs to be in front of a public K-12 school.”
A small group of opposing legislators argued that the issue is not the abortion clinics, but rather the pro-life activists who protest outside of them.
“Let’s get real who’s the problem here,” said Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham). “It is not the clinic, it is the people protesting the operation.” Todd, who has escorted other women to have abortions, said she has been spit on by protesters and hit with their signs.
Nikema Williams of Planned Parenthood, which operates abortion clinics in Birmingham and Montgomery, expressed her outrage to the Advertiser, saying, “To treat us as if we should be on some watch list as convicted sex offenders is asinine,” she said.
Cheryl Ciamarra of Alabama Citizens for Life said her organization supports the bill and hopes the Senate acts quickly to pass it with just a few days remaining in the session.
“Alabama is taking the lead to protect school children from abortion providers and visually graphic protests at these killing sites,” she said. “Hopefully the Alabama Senate will concur with protecting Alabams’s school children… (by) passing this common sense important legislation as soon as possible. This is the only piece of respect life legislation that looks like it has a chance to pass this year.”
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— Cliff Sims (@Cliff_Sims) December 3, 2014