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.
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.