Alabama Joins States Passing Bills Regulating Abortion Clinics

Alabama is joining six other U.S. states to require that doctors performing abortions have hospital admitting privileges, which the law describes as a safety measure and opponents say is an effort to close clinics.

The Republican-led legislature passed the measure April 2. Republican Governor Robert Bentley, a physician, is expected to sign the so-called Women’s Health and Safety Act after reviewing it, said his spokeswoman, Jennifer Ardis.

The bill says abortion doctors must have privileges at an acute-care hospital within the same metropolitan area, and any abortion center must meet certain building codes or lose its license. The measure is an attempt to shut most of Alabama’s five licensed abortion providers with stricter rules, according to Planned Parenthood, which may challenge it in court.

“We are definitely going to explore every possible option to protect the women’s health and safety in Alabama,” Nikema Williams, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood Southeast, said in a telephone interview.

Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, Tennessee and Utah have passed laws requiring hospital privileges for doctors at abortion facilities, and lawmakers in Kentucky, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia are considering similar measures, said Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute of New York, which promotes sexual and reproductive health.

An abortion clinic in Tennessee has closed after passage of that state’s law, according to Nash. Mississippi’s only abortion clinic is suing the state to block a law there, saying it will be forced to shut down because local facilities won’t grant privilege requests.

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