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Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley signs law raising requirements for abortion clinics

Wednesday, April 10, 2013 - 10:11am

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley signed a law Tuesday that drastically raises the safety requirements for abortion clinics to operate -- a measure that he says "has been endorsed by pro-life groups across America."

But Planned Parenthood immediately warned of "an almost certain legal challenge," saying the new law's requirements "would be difficult for nearly all providers to meet" and would shut down clinics.

Bentley, a Republican, hailed the new law.

"As a physician, and as a governor, I am proud to sign this legislation," he said in a statement. "This bill provides appropriate standards of care."

Doctors who provide abortions must have admitting privileges at local hospitals, the governor's office said.

A similar new law in Mississippi has put that state's only abortion provider "on the verge of closing" because of such an admitting privileges requirement, Planned Parenthood said. That clinic is challenging the Mississippi law in federal court, saying the state would end up banning abortion because the clinic's doctors haven't been able to gain the privileges.

Nikema Williams, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood Southeast, said that "medical experts agree that laws requiring admitting privileges for abortion don't increase health or safety for a woman.

"They just limit a woman's access to safe and legal abortion," Williams said in a statement.

"As a high-quality health care provider working every day to support women's health and safety, Planned Parenthood is evaluating every possible option to protect the health of women in the face of this dangerous law and blatant attack on women's health and rights," she said.

The Alabama measure passed by overwhelming majorities in both houses of the state legislature. Mike Hubbard, speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives, has said, "With the passage of this legislation, we are doing everything we can to ensure the procedure is performed in a safe and healthy environment."

Once signed, Alabama's new law would require abortion clinics to meet the standards of an "ambulatory surgical center," Staci Fox, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood, has said.

This means the state's five abortion clinics would have to remodel to increase the sizes of rooms and doorways.

"It puts an undue burden on existing facilities. All of this makes it harder to access health care," Fox said.

The new law also requires doctors at the clinics to ask pregnant minors under age 16 seeking an abortion who the father is, according to a summary of the legislation provided by Hubbard's office.

The pregnant minor will be able to refuse to give the father's name and age.

If the girl provides the name and the father is two or more years older than the girl, the facility will have to report the pregnant girl and father to police, the legislation says. The legislation is designed to prevent abuse.

The law is the centerpiece of the "We Dare Defend Our Right to Life" section of the House Republican caucus's 2013 legislative agenda.

The law's House sponsor, Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, a Republican from Indian Springs Village, Alabama, said abortion clinics truly dedicated to care "will embrace this legislation rather than oppose it.

"For far too long, Alabama has had more health regulations in place to protect your cat or dog at a vet clinic than it does for a woman receiving an abortion; this law will correct that shameful disparity," McClurkin said in a statement.

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