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Alabama House committee approves ‘personhood’ bill affirming life starts at conception

(Flickr user Christine Szeto)
(Flickr user Christine Szeto)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Health Committee in the Alabama House of Representatives approved the so-called Personhood Amendment that would legally define a person as “any human being from the moment of fertilization or the functional equivalent thereof.”

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ed Henry (R-Hartselle) said that he thinks that the bill is not specifically anti-abortion. “I just believe it’s not a direct attack on abortion,” he said after his bill was approved on a voice vote. “But if Alabamians believe life begins at conception, then it does cause abortion to be in conflict with our values.”

At a heated public hearing on the amendment last month, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer called the bill an “attack on women.” ACLU counsel Brock Boone said the amendment would ban abortion even in cases of rape and incest, and could render some forms of birth control the “legal equivalent of homicide.”

On Wednesday, Henry said the bill could possibly affect some forms of birth control and would affect some in-vitro fertilization techniques.

Mississippi, Colorado and North Dakota all had similar proposals put to the voters in recent years and all were voted down. The Oklahoma Supreme Court in 2012 ruled a similar amendment unconstitutional.

Henry conceded that even if the amendment is passed into law by the voters of Alabama, litigation against it is inevitable.

If passed by the House and the Senate, voters will have a chance to consider the issue at the ballot box. Until appropriately defeated in court, the amendment would stand as law.

Another bill, proposed by Sen. Paul Sanford (R-Huntsville), would prohibit the Alabama Department of Public Health from issuing or renewing licenses for abortion clinics within 2,000 feet of a K through 8 public school.

His bill has already passed the state senate but needs to pass in the house. The same committee held a hearing on Sanford’s bill today but did not take a vote.

The Huntsville senator said that the purpose of the bill was to spare children from seeing things that sometimes happen at abortion clinics, such as protests, and not necessary close down clinics.