Alabama House passes pro-life bill to restrict abortion clinics near schools

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |
Alabama Women's Center for Reproductive Alternatives left its old facilities pictured here for renovated offices of a former hospital clinic located just across the street from the former Ed White Middle School, which is being remodeled to house the Academy for Academics & Arts magnet school.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (Christian Examiner) -- Determined Alabama pro-life supporters are digging in their heels as the state's lawmakers try to move legislation through the House and Senate that would prohibit abortion clinics near schools.

Should the legislation pass, it could shut down North Alabama's only abortion clinic.

"We've come a long way and we see victory in sight but we're not there yet and I think that's a pretty accurate assessment," James Henderson, executive director of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, told Christian Examiner.

The proposed legislation, which passed the House 79-15 Tuesday, was sponsored by Rep. Ed Henry (R-Hartselle), and establishes a 2,000-foot buffer between abortion clinics and public schools. The buffer is similar to the minimum distance requirement that is placed on sex offenders and schools. The bill now moves to the Senate where it must clear both the Rules Committee and Health Committee before moving to the floor for a full senate vote.

"Frankly we came out of no where and it took months to build the support we needed in the pro-life community as well as finding the support with the legislators," Henderson said. "When you look at how far we've come, we are excited about what has been done and what Rep. Henry was able to do (in the House)."

Hartselle reportedly defended the bill for two hours on the House floor. During the debate, the legislator called abortion clinics "a volatile atmosphere that our children shouldn't be exposed to."

In this YouTube screenshot dated June 8, 2013, Rev James Henderson delivers a pro-life message in front of Huntsville abortion mill. Henderson states that over the course of 20 years, Alabama pro-life advocates have helped to close all but one of the abortion clinics in the North Alabama. Proposed legislation awaiting Senate committee approval could close the only remaining abortion clinic in the region. | YouTube/SCREEN SHOT

Earlier this year the Christian Coalition filed an unsuccessful lawsuit seeking to shut down Alabama's Women's Center. The suit claimed the region's sole clinic should not be allowed to operate on a previously granted building variance intended for the building's original outpatient facility. When a Judge rejected the Coalition's suit, Henderson said they would not appeal the judge's decision and instead seek to establish new legislation.

At the suggestion of the governor's chief legal advisor, David Byrne Jr., Henderson drafted a bill similar to a 2012 Alabama sex offender law. Once the bill was written, Henderson said they had to work to garner the necessary  support.

"We started pushing really seriously back in January, so we found some good support for it in the legislature," Henderson said. "One thing I have to say is I'm really proud of our great Christian Republican legislators who when we went around and talked to them just totally supported us. Some said they would pray for us and made all kinds of commitments to stand pro-life -- so we feel good about that," Henderson said.

Should the law pass the Senate before the end of this year's legislative session, the Alabama Women's Center would have to close or relocate because its current location is almost directly across from a middle school undergoing renovations.