Activists on both sides of Alabama's abortion issue are promising more action now that four new abortion bills are moving forward at the State Capitol. The proposed laws include tighter restrictions on abortions, including the "heartbeat" provision, that would effectively ban almost all abortions beyond about six weeks of pregnancy.
Reverend James Henderson of Huntsville joined activists at the State Capitol in support of four new abortion control bills passed by the State House Health Committee, bills abortion rights advocates promise to fight.
"It would eliminate the option to have an abortion, which is our legal right as women in this country," said Melissa Davis of Tennessee Valley Advocates for Reproductive Freedom.
The bills in the House require:
"The heartbeat is a universal measure of life," said Rev. Henderson. "It's a common denominator. It's one that should determine if life is there. If it is, we believe that the law should stop any attempt to abort that life."
"That's a pretty powerful symbol, as is a woman's right to bodily autonomy and her right to abortion," said Davis. "This is a bad idea. This is something that's going to be challenged legally."
The bills will now move on to the State Senate, where they are expected to pass. Abortion rights activists say if they become law they will almost certainly be challenged on constitutional grounds.
It's a challenge Henderson recognizes as familiar. "There are similar laws tied up in court at the moment, but I don't believe that we should give up just because we expect to run into obstacles. I believe we always have to stand for life," he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama reacted to the abortion bills. Director Susan Watson issued a statement Tuesday afternoon (PDF), which says in part, "All four of these highly controversial bills are a disrespectful affront to the health and well-being of Alabamian women. They have nothing to do with health care at all."
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