Alabama Senate approves major personhood measure, pro-life bills

The Alabama Senate has approved a slew of pro-life bills that could mark the greatest step forward in state pro-life law since the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.
By Peter J. Smith

By Peter J. Smith

MONTGOMERY, Alabama, May 27, 2011 ( – The Alabama Senate has approved a slew of pro-life bills that could mark the greatest step forward in state pro-life law since the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.

“History is being made in the Alabama Legislature,” stated Lt. Governor Kay Ivey, upon Tuesday’s passage of pro-life bills in the Senate. “The Alabama Legislature is working together to help protect and save the lives of our future generations.”

State senators on Tuesday voted 25-7 to approve a personhood bill (SB 301) that extends the legal definition of “person” to human beings at the beginning of fertilization and implantation in the mother’s womb. 

The measure, which awaits approval from the state House and Republican Governor Robert Bentley, could provide the state a legal basis to ban most surgical and chemical abortions.

Jennifer Mason, a spokeswoman for PersonhoodUSA, lauded the bill but lamented that the measure fell short of its sponsor Sen. Phil Williams’ (R-Rainbow City) original proposal, which extended personhood to human embryos before implantation.

Williams’ original bill read: “The term ‘persons’ as used in the Code of Alabama 1975, shall include any human being from the moment of fertilization or the functional equivalent thereof.” Last minute changes amended the text to read “moment of fertilization and implantation into the womb.”

“We recognize the good intentions of the Senators who changed SB301, but grieve that it will still be legal to kill unique individual human beings with some chemical abortions or in a laboratory,” stated Mason.

The changes mean that in vitro fertilization procedures, some forms of chemical contraception, and the Plan-B emergency contraception, criticized by pro-life groups for killing a human embryo by preventing implantation, still fall outside the scope of the law.

But Ben DuPre of Personhood Alabama said the statute provided a basis for a constitutional amendment that would attribute personhood to all unborn children from the very beginning of their biological development.

“Hopefully we can build on SB301 (and not merely rest upon it) to go as far as morality and justice require until all preborn children have equal protection of our law,” said DuPre in a statement. 

The Senate also voted 26-6 to ban telemed abortion practices in the state with SB 298, requiring abortionists to meet and examine a woman in person before prescribing chemical abortion drugs like RU-486, and also to have a follow-up exam.

Also approved was a new requirement that abortionists perform an ultrasound for the benefit of a pregnant woman before performing an abortion. The bill (SB 308) approved by the Senate on a 26-3 vote, requires an abortionist to perform an ultrasound, give a verbal description of the unborn child at that stage in his development, and display the images for the mother’s viewing before administering anesthesia for an abortion. 

The bill states that a mother does not have to view the images that are shown to her, and neither the physician nor the mother are subject to any legal penalty if she declines to look at them. 

The Senate also acted on two bills that prevent health insurance money from being used to pay for elective abortion. The Senate approved SB 202, which prohibits abortion coverage by any health insurance policy offered in the upcoming state-run health insurance exchange, due for implementation in 2014 under President Obama’s health care law.

The Senate also approved SB281, which prohibits health insurance companies from covering elective abortions in their policies, and requires that an individual seeking coverage for elective abortion must purchase a separate rider.

Before the GOP took over the Alabama legislature from Democrats in the November 2010 elections, most pro-life bills died in committee. 

“This past November’s election had consequences, and in this case, those positive consequences allowed us to pass the first pro-life bill in years,” remarked Sen. Greg Reed (R-Jasper), sponsor of the abortion opt-out legislation. 

All these bills now go to the House for approval, and then on to the governor.

Still on the Senate’s agenda is HB 18, a bill passed by the House which bans late-term abortion at 20 weeks gestation on the basis of medical evidence showing that an unborn child is capable of feeling pain at that stage.

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