TRAP Laws Target Huntsville Abortion Clinic

Wednesday the Alabama Senate Committee on Health and Human Services held a public hearing on SB205, the bill that seeks to treat abortion providers like sex offenders by insisting they be kept 2,000 feet from schools.

Before they heard comments on that bill, they took the time to pass a bill restricting the sale of reading glasses over the counter. Because, as my friend Sandy Loveday said, “heaven forbid someone actually be able to READ their ballot.”

Senator Sanford introduced SB205, sounding less than confident.

“If you feel like 2000 feet is too far,” he said, “I would be willing to narrow that.”

Still in introductions, Senator Ward interrupted to say that although he is “pro-life” and he will vote in favor of this bill, he knows it will cost money in litigation and urged Sanford to avoid proposing legislation in the future that might be challenged as unconstitutional. (Translation: I know voting in favor of this bill is wrong, but it gets me votes, so fuck it.)

Rev. James Henderson spoke ahead of me. He said it was concerning that the owner of the Huntsville clinic has said he fears for his life and has felt the need to arm himself.

That is concerning. Perhaps we should pass some legislation to protect abortion providers from anti-choice terrorists.

Here is that same reverend terrorizing the clinic staff.

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He said it was concerning that the clinic owner, who feels his life is in danger, might exercise his Second Amendment right to bear arms.

And what that has to do with the proposed legislation is beyond me. Moving the clinic won’t increase safety for the clinic staff, nor will it prevent them from owning firearms.

A citizen from Huntsville spoke about how he believes abortion is all about profit, but he couldn’t produce any facts to defend that opinion.

When it was my turn to speak, I had several facts to share.

But first, I said hello to Sen. Dial and thanked him for speaking at the conference at Troy on Friday. That seemed to grab his attention.

Here is some of what I shared with the committee:

I want to give a little history on the clinic this bill specifically targets. It specifically targets the Alabama Women’s Health Center in Huntsville.

Two years ago, the clinic moved to its current location to comply with TRAP laws. In case you are unfamiliar, TRAP laws are Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers. By their very nature, TRAP laws target clinics, and this one singled out the clinic in Huntsville.

The owner of the clinic spent about $1 million on the move to the current location.

There was a zoning hearing and a public hearing. The zoning board decided the clinic was properly zoned.

Anti-abortion fanatics took the zoning board to court, but the judge ruled in favor of the zoning board.

And now because they lost, the anti-abortion activists want to try to pass legislation to get what they want.

I spoke against this bill last year when Ed Henry brought it before us. Rep Henry told the media, as many others have noted, the reason for proposing this bill was to protect children from the graphic, vulgar, and inappropriate harassment of the patients by so-called pro-life fanatics.

If passed, this bill sets the precedent that vulgar protests can shut down businesses and organizations. For instance, if the KKK were to protest at a community center near a school, legislation could be passed to shut down the community center.

This bill is unconstitutional, it is a waste of taxpayer dollars, and it will lose in federal court at the expense of the taxpayers.

You cannot – You cannot – Close down a business simply because you don’t like it.

The only thing offensive at Alabama reproductive clinics is the protesting outside, which means this bill is clearly aimed at the wrong entity.

There is nothing vulgar or offensive about women’s healthcare. In fact, it is a personal and private matter that is not displayed outside by either the clinic staff or the clients.

Patients and providers value discretion in reproductive healthcare. If we are to ensure that children are not exposed to graphic images and hateful rhetoric, this bill is the wrong way to do that.

Protesters can and have been known to hold those disgusting signs outside schools, having children carry these signs for them. At the school.

The location of the clinic

Does. Not. matter.

SB 205 will not only fail to protect children, it will hurt Alabama women and cost the state of Alabama money we do not have to defend yet another bill that is so blatantly unconstitutional anyone who votes in favor of it should be ashamed.

Before they voted,a few committee members directed questions to the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Sanford, about whether they would be allowed to build schools near existing clinics in order to get them shut down. They also wanted to know if the existing clinic in Huntsville would be exempt from this new legislation. (It wouldn’t be exempt. The bill prohibits clinics within 2,000 feet of a school from renewing their license.)

“Well I’ve gotten mixed reviews on that,” Sanford said.

Mixed reviews? It is YOUR bill.

Sen. Linda Coleman Madison echoed some of my comments and even showed photos of protesters and their vulgar signs. She argued that the protesters should be restricted, not the clinic, a legitimate business that was properly zoned.
“Your rights stop right where mine begin,” Madison said.

Despite her very reasonable objections to the bill, and her vote against it, it passed out of the committee anyway.

When the meeting was adjourned, I went over to thank her. She hugged me and we shared a little of our frustrations on the issue before she had to rush off to another meeting.

I will leave you with this: If 2,000 feet is a safe distance from a threat, that is the distance we should keep clinic terrorists, like Henderson, from both schools and clinics.

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The CDC Owes All Women an Apology

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The CDC suggests all women should drink less to avoid injuries/violence, STDs, and unintended pregnancy, among other things. In this infographic, the CDC has suggested that women’s bodies are only important as incubators for fetuses, that women are to blame for any violence that happens to us while we’re drinking, and that drinking can cause STDs.

I don’t think I need to tell you drinking does not cause STDs. Let’s just move on to the rest of the problems with these suggestions.

The CDC says about half of pregnancies in the US are unintended. As a result, they recommend all women of reproductive age prepare our bodies for pregnancy by doing things like quitting smoking, abstaining from alcohol, and taking folic acid.

Are you kidding me?! Ok, so quitting smoking is a great idea, and drinking too much can be a problem, but the CDC makes these recommendations not for the health of women, but for the health of a fetus we may or may not want to carry to term.

And let’s not forget our LGBT friends. The CDC fails to recognize the fact that all women who have sex are not at risk of becoming pregnant. Women who have sex with women do not need birth control. And trans women do not need to worry about unintended pregnancy.

The point is, not all women who have sex are at risk of becoming pregnant without birth control. And for those of us who are, I think we should focus on increasing access to birth control rather than telling women not to drink while we quietly defund every social program designed to reduce unwanted pregnancies.

Injuries and violence do not happen as a result of the victim’s drinking. Period. Do not even try to make that argument with me. Trans women are at risk of violence every day, whether they drink or not. And any woman can be a victim of domestic violence – even when she’s sober. If someone attacks a woman while she is drinking or under the influence, it is not her fault. The CDC should recommend individuals with a tendency for violence not drink, rather than telling those who might be victims it is our responsibility to prevent attacks.

Women – your health should be a priority because YOU matter – not because of the CDCs obsession with your uterus (if you have one). What we need are programs that put our health and safety first. We need increased access to trans wellness programs and reproductive healthcare. And we need to be providing comprehensive sex education, based on facts, that acknowledges we are not at fault for the actions of others.

If the problem is that unintended pregnancies are more common than we’d like, and most women don’t know they’re pregnant until 4-6 weeks into the pregnancy, this is not an indication that women everywhere should live life as if they are already pregnant. On the contrary, this is a clear sign that measures to decrease access to contraceptives, eliminate comprehensive sex education, and reduce access to safe legal abortion after 6 weeks are bad ideas.

Committed to Reproductive Justice

I recently applied for a job that required a statement of commitment to reproductive justice along with my cover letter and resume. I was a little worried about the two paragraph limit, but I managed to cram a lot of information in there. This was an absolute joy to write, and thought it was worth sharing. Enjoy!

Statement of Commitment to Reproductive Justice

I had an abortion two years ago, and I have never apologized for it. Abortion is healthcare, and women seeking abortions – regardless of the reason – deserve the right to access that care freely and privately – just like any other procedure.  I believe the right to safe and legal abortion should include access to care. The Hyde Amendment restricts abortion access by placing an unnecessary financial burden on women, leading many to take drastic and unsafe measures. The recent attacks on women’s reproductive rights have compounded existing barriers women face in accessing healthcare. Clinics are closing at an alarming rate, placing even the most basic reproductive healthcare needs out of reach for millions of women across America. I am passionate in my belief that all women deserve the right to choose when or if they become mothers, and I have devoted nearly all of my free time to activism. In addition to speaking at public rallies and legislative hearings, I regularly volunteer as a clinic defender for Reproductive Health Services in my hometown of Montgomery, Alabama. There I ensure client safety and privacy is maintained and that patients are aware of their rights under the FACE Act. When Operation Save America held their annual convention outside my local abortion clinic, I took a week of vacation from my full-time job so I could work with other volunteers to secure the clinic and provide a welcoming environment for clients.

When anti choice fanatics attempted to rent the building next door to the clinic, which would have been a significant security threat, the clinic owner rented the property herself. As founder and president of Montgomery Humanists, I coordinated with Lady Parts Justice League and our small team of volunteers to host a fundraiser that allowed us to secure an additional three months on the lease for the property.  More recently, I started a campaign on social media that allows individuals to pledge donations for specific buzzwords and phrases the anti-choice protesters usually shout at patients. By making the pledge amounts and the rules of the game visible to the protesters, I’ve sent a clear message that shouting at our patients or attempting to film them will result in financial support for abortion access. Through this campaign, I raised nearly $2,000 in the first two weeks and have successfully silenced the protesters on several occasions. I continue to track prolife organizations in my area and am steadfast in my commitment to reproductive justice and abortion access as a basic right.

Alabama Still Fighting for Equal Marriage

(This was a couple of weeks ago and I didn’t get a chance to post about it then, but I can’t start this blog without mentioning my first rally of the year.)

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Photo by Christiane Robinson

We didn’t even make it one week into 2016 before Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore gave us something to protest. On January 6, he issued an order stating the state’s probate judges “have a ministerial duty” not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision last year affirming a nationwide right to marriage equality.

I immediately got on the phone with fellow activist Mike Walker and we started organizing. Last year Mike and I, along with six other local humanists, founded Montgomery Humanists, an official chapter of the American Humanist Association. Our goal was to provide a unified voice and a means of pushing back against religious overreach.  Roy Moore’s order went against everything we stood for, and we had to speak up.

Over the next five days we worked with Equality Wiregrass, HRC Alabama, and several progressive individuals to organize a gathering on the Supreme Court steps. We had notaries on site to notarize judicial complaint forms, and I made a giant urn of coffee to for our humanist hospitality table.

It was freezing, but we still had an amazing turnout. Among the speakers were Brett Jones, the first openly gay US Navy Seal, Paul Hard, plaintiff in an ongoing battle to have his marriage recognized by Alabama courts after his husband was tragically killed in a car accident, Rev. Lynn Hopkins, Minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Montgomery, and Rev. Fred Hammond, Minister of the UU Fellowship of Tuscaloosa.

Our message was clear:

  • Roy Moore’s personal beliefs have no place in the judicial process.
  • Roy Moore has no authority to issue an order that defies the SCOTUS ruling, which granted all Americans the right to marry. We refuse to allow Roy Moore to take away rights from Alabamians that have been granted to us as Americans.

My husband, Nick Morgan-Moore, emceed the rally with Ambrosia Starling, who was gorgeous in drag. They both did an amazing job of keeping the crowd pumped.

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Photo by Christiane Robinson

I think the best thing was that we defied Roy Moore’s order right there on the Supreme Court steps when Rev. Fred Hammond performed a same sex wedding ceremony after the rally, proving Roy Moore really has no power to stop marriage equality.

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Cell phone photo taken by yours truly.

A friend of mine was kind enough to record my short speech for me. You can watch it here.

 

As always, Christiane Robinson was there to take photos for us. Check out her Facebook Page for more coverage of Alabama’s fight for marriage equality.