Alabama lawmakers weigh strict 'fetal heartbeat' abortion ban

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama Tue Mar 4, 2014 3:20pm EST

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BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Reuters) - Alabama lawmakers will debate four abortion measures on Tuesday, including a proposal that would ban the procedure after a fetal heartbeat is heard and almost guarantee a legal challenge from opponents if approved.

No other state has such a law in effect. Efforts by legislators in North Dakota and Arkansas to prohibit abortions after the detection of a heartbeat have been blocked by courts while lawsuits are pending.

The sponsor of the Alabama measure, Republican state Representative Mary Sue McClurkin, said it was needed to protect the lives of unborn children.

"If your heart is beating, that means you are alive," she said during a recent committee hearing.

Critics of the legislation say a fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as five or six weeks into a pregnancy, which is before many women even realize they are pregnant.

The proposed abortion restriction is "blatantly" unconstitutional, said Jennifer Dalven, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Reproductive Freedom Project.

"It would be the most extreme law by far in the country," Dalven said in an interview.

The state House of Representatives also is considering a measure that would extend the waiting period for all abortions from 24 to 48 hours.

Another bill calls for at least a 48-hour wait for a woman who learns her fetus has a lethal condition and will not survive outside of the womb. Under the proposal, she would be required to learn about perinatal hospice options.

She would have to sign a waiver testifying that she opted for the abortion over hospice care.

"This is a cruel bill," said Nikema Williams, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood Southeast.

A fourth measure adds new requirements for pregnant minors seeking an abortion. In instances where a young woman seeks permission from a judge instead of a parent, the bill would allow parents to participate in the proceedings, even in cases where there may have been parental abuse, Dalven said.

The proposals follow a law passed in Alabama last year that requires abortion clinics to meet surgical center standards by March 24, a move that critics say threatens to shutter three of Alabama's five remaining abortion clinics.

(Additional reporting and writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Tom Brown)

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Comments (2)
donincardona wrote:
this is a lot of crap. it’s time to bring all these laws to SCOTUS. they are all unconstitutional. and all you right wingers talk about the constitution. well you can’t have it both ways. the conetitution isn’t good just when you agree with it.

Mar 04, 2014 6:12pm EST  --  Report as abuse
durabimus wrote:
I am beginning to wonder if the heart of the abortion issue is more fundamental than simply, “the just rights of women” and “abortion is murder.” I think at its heart is the idea that humans only exist, on their most basic level, as individuals. I think this paradigm might be wrong. The human animal is relational and ought to be treated as such. We can’t look at the rights of the mother without considering the rights of her child, we can’t consider the rights of the child without the rights of the mother. Even more radical, we ought not consider the rights of either in isolation from the rights of the father. I think in this issue we are beginning to see individualism as the legal fiction it may be (important legal fiction no doubt).

Mar 04, 2014 6:34pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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