The Alabama House of Representatives [official website] voted 72-23 [roll call] to approve the Women's Health and Safety Act [HB57 text] Tuesday, tightening regulations for abortion clinics and mandating that an Alabama-licensed physician who has admitting privileges at a local hospital must be present at every abortion. The current law permits abortion clinics to partner with doctors [Reuters report] who have hospital admitting privileges for provision of follow-up care. Supporters of the Women's Health and Safety Act say the act is intended to require that abortion clinics meet the same health standards as hospitals, thus better securing safety for women who choose to undergo an abortion. Critics of the act claim the measure will effectively close many abortion clinics in Alabama. The bill will now move to the Alabama Senate [official website] for additional consideration and approval.
Reproductive rights [JURIST backgrounder] are a controversial topic, with numerous states changing their abortion laws recently, resulting in several legal challenges. In Arkansas earlier this month, the House of Representatives [official website] approved a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and a week prior the Arkansas Senate passed a ban on abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected [JURIST reports]. The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit [official website] in January upheld [JURIST report] a Massachusetts law that established "buffer zones" [Planned Parenthood backgrounder], creating a protected area outside of the abortion clinic where people are not allowed to protest. Also in January, a judge for the US District Court for the District of Kansas [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that a challenge to a 2011 Kansas law [HB 2075 materials] prohibiting insurance companies from covering abortions will go to trial. In December a state judge in Georgia enjoined a law [JURIST report] banning doctors from providing abortions for women more than 20 weeks into gestation. In November Montana voters passed a referendum [JURIST report] requiring facilities and doctors to inform parents of minors 16 to 48 hours before a planned abortion procedure.