Bill to stiffen abortion clinic rules passes panel


MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama House committee has approved a bill that would stiffen the requirements for abortion clinics in the state, a move that some clinic operators say would cause them to close.

The bill would place requirements on the facilities such as requiring them to have wider hallways and would require clinics to have a doctor available when an abortion is performed.

The sponsor, Republican Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin of Pelham, says the new rules would require abortion clinics to meet the same standards as most facilities that perform surgical procedures.

"This is about making sure patients are taken care of the way we would want to be taken care of," McClurkin said.

The bill now goes to the full House for debate.

A passionate opponent of abortions, McClurkin was asked if the purpose of the bill was to stop all abortions.

"I wish, but it is not," she said.

But opponents, including clinic operators, say the measures are unrealistic and would result in the closure of most abortion clinics.

Tori Smith of Tuscaloosa said abortion is a safe alternative for women who have an unwanted pregnancy. She said if abortion clinics are forced to close some women will be forced to use unsafe alternatives.

Abortion opponent Eric Johnston, a Birmingham lawyer, says the purpose of the bill is to protect the health of women, not to close clinics.

But Gloria Gray, director of the West Alabama Women's Center in Tuscaloosa, said "the purpose of this bill is to shut down all clinics."

Gray called abortion a safe procedure and that there has been no health crisis to create a need for the bill.

"This will make performing abortions so difficult, a number of clinics will be forced to close," Gray said.

In neighboring Mississippi, legislators passed a law last year that requires anyone doing abortions to be an OB-GYN with privileges to admit patients to the hospital. The state's lone abortion clinic said last month it had received notice that the state health department intends to revoke its operating license, though it is not expected to close anytime soon.

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