Proposed bill in Alabama legislature could allow for exceptions to abortion ban

Local women’s clinic says the bill needs to provide more details
Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 8:51 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A new bill set to be presented when next week’s general legislative session starts could make it possible for victims of rape or incest to get an abortion in Alabama.

The procedure is currently illegal in the state, except to prevent a serious health risk to the mother.

The West Alabama Women’s Center in Tuscaloosa is now focusing on women’s care and pregnancy prevention. They used to provide legal abortions in the state, but organizers don’t support the new bill allowing exceptions to Alabama’s current abortion ban.

Director Robin Marty said the bill doesn’t have enough concrete information in it. She said it needs to clarify if a person has to have a police or medical report of the rape or incest to get the abortion. Marty said it also doesn’t outline doctor requirements, whether two doctors will have to sign off or one.

“It does not, for instance, explain what would be required if a person were to say they wanted an abortion because they had been sexually assaulted,” Marty said. “There’s really not a lot of explanation of what exactly they are going to ask of the patients, and also what are they going to ask of the doctors. Are they going to have to have two doctors sign off in the same way the health exceptions we have right now, say that two doctors need to agree with this.”

“It creates a bunch of complications for doctors that we have already seen don’t want to do abortions,” Marty said. “They are worried about their own medical career. Introducing exceptions is just going to make it more complicated for them and less likely to actually provide any of those exceptions.”

The bill would allow exceptions to the ban for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, but Marty said many patients in those cases often struggle to find doctors willing, even when abortions were legal in the state.

“We did often have people come in who had been sexually assaulted,” Marty said. “They usually did not report to the police, often it was by companions, or by people that they would not feel comfortable about prosecuting against.”

“They weren’t able to access abortion when it was legal under these circumstances, trying to access them through exceptions when it’s not legal, is going to be completely impossible,” Marty said. “That is not going to change because they are suddenly now able to do an abortion because someone has been sexually assaulted. This puts a doctor in the uncomfortable position of which patient can be trusted.”

Marty said the bill also needs to add clarification on where they can get the abortion and how much it will cost.

“Are they allowed to go to clinics that provide this care, if there are any left,” Marty said. “Do they have to go to hospitals where oftentimes the doctor may not know how to do a certain type of procedure.”

Marty said the clinic is still struggling to keep its doors open, but right now, can stay open until July.

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