Bills decimate women’s rights

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 23, 2013

How do you decimate the rights of women in Alabama? You do it one bill at a time.

Tuesday, women all over this state were busy, as we are most days, going about our everyday lives. Home, kids, work, for most of us it’s a continuous balancing act just to make it through the week. Who has time to worry about what some legislators in Montgomery are doing when we all lead such busy lives? The thing is, while we were all distracted Tuesday with the important tasks that we do every day, our legislators were busy too — busy stripping away our rights one bill at a time.

HB57, the bill to put excessive restrictions on women’s health clinics that no other clinic has to follow, has passed the Alabama House and is on its way to the Senate for debate. This bill will have the effect of shutting down all five women’s clinics in Alabama. These are clinics that serve the less fortunate women of our state by providing safe access to needs like counseling, birth control, cancer prevention, treatment for STDs and family planning services. Abortion is less than 5 percent of what they do.

If this bill were about protecting women, as the sponsor Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin has stated, then all medical clinics in the state would be required to meet the same standards. There are numerous outpatient surgeries performed in clinics; invasive skin cancers and tumors removed by surgery, vasectomies, colon exams, oral surgery (performed with far more risk), stent insertion, and many, many more. No other clinics, offices, surgical centers, or even hospitals that perform equally invasive procedures or far more invasive procedures are subject to these regulations.

HB108 (Religious Liberty Act) passed as well, which will give employers the right to deny women in Alabama contraception coverage if a company’s shareholders object to birth control on religious grounds. This means that if your employer files for a religious exemption, you could be in the position of having to make a case to your boss in order for your health insurance to cover birth control that is prescribed for medical reasons. They will not have to cover birth control for contraceptive purposes.

In addition to the bills referenced above, Alabama politicians are trying to push a “Personhood” bill (SB205). The law of unintended consequences should temper our resolve when tinkering with laws impacting people’s lives. When you define a person at the moment of conception, then contraceptives like the pill and IUDs (which prevents the egg from implanting in the uterus) are tantamount to murder weapons. Only condoms would likely be allowed since they intervene before the fertilization. Personhood legislation would also have many other unintended consequences such as making in vitro fertilization illegal, preventing many women from being able to become pregnant.

Alabama women deserve better than to have politicians “play doctor” and take away our abilities to make personal, private medical decisions for ourselves. Women should have the power and the legal right to make their own reproductive decisions.

Rep. Mike Jones (334-242-7739) voted yes on both of the bills that passed in the House on Tuesday. These bills will be coming up for debate and vote in the Senate very soon. I would encourage each of you to call Sen. Jimmy Holley (334-242-7845) and ask him to please vote no. Ask him to trust women. Do it for your mother, your sister, your daughter, your aunt. Do it for any woman that you love.


Teresa Tolbert

Red Level