The Alabama Department of Public Health heard testimony regarding rules for a new law in Alabama that creates new requirements for abortion clinics.
The department will make decisions on adopting rules within the next few weeks. Thursday's meeting was just to provide input from the public.
"It is with sadness and with deep-seeded anger that I stand before this committee today," said Libby Rich, a Birmingham resident who detailed her experience having an illegal abortion more than 20 years ago.
"I might not be so afraid if I had seen step after step after step after step being taken where a woman is restricted from making her choice" Rich said. Her abortion, which was done in secret, led to her being sterile as a result, unable to give birth to more children.
Rich's position is that of many who have come out against the Women's Health and Safety Act of 2013 which the Republican controlled Alabama Legislature approved during its Regular Legislative Session. In Rich's view, the law places too many restrictions on abortion clinics, with the intention of reducing the number of or eliminating altogether abortions in Alabama. Rich said that had she had access to a proper abortion clinic, her experience would have never happened.
Rich was one of only two people to speak at the meeting against the new rules.
Some of the restrictions include new physical requirements for abortion clinics, like the sizes of doorways in order to get beds through. They also include new guidelines for doctors that perform abortions, that they must have admitting privileges to a local hospital.
Supporters of the new law spoke both about the need for clean, licensed facilities that have the same standards as many ambulatory care centers as well as the need to protect the lives of the unborn. As a matter of fact, comments from speakers had more to do with the arguments between pro-life and pro-choice than they had to do with the actual rules themselves that the Department of Public Health considered at the meeting.
"This law is really to protect women who have abortions" said Jeanne Paxon, a nurse and active pro-life volunteer and supporter.
Paxon described the law as a common-sense measure because it mandates that abortion clinics be held to similar standards as hospitals and ambulatory care centers.
"It's trying to hold them up to the standards that regular facilities that people like me work at as far as the safety that protects the patients and protects those women" Paxon said.
The Department of Public Health will come back with its proposed rules in several weeks.
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