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2/1/2010 - February 2010 SLI Educational Update - The Pro-Life Agenda for the 2010 Alabama Legislative Regular Session



To: SLI Supporters

Date: February 2010

From: A. Eric Johnston

Re: The Pro-Life Agenda for the 2010 Alabama Legislative Regular Session

Six pro-life bills have been filed in the 2010 Alabama legislative session. The purpose of this update is to explain the contents and objectives of pro-life bills filed with the Legislature and the position of the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition (APLC) on them. SLI is providing legal advice on the bills during the legislative process and agrees with APLC’s position.

I. HEALTHCARE RIGHTS OF CONSCIENCE ACT (HB41) - This bill is to protect the right of persons and entities to refuse involvement in healthcare services that violate religious, moral or ethical convictions. It prohibits all forms of discrimination and coercion by reason of such refusal for services such as abortion, artificial birth control and insemination, assisted reproduction, human cloning, euthanasia, human embryonic stem cell research, fetal experimentation, physician-assisted suicide, and sterilization. Persons and entities are protected. A healthcare provider will be any individual (physician, nurse, pharmacist, or student), healthcare institution (hospital, clinic or office), and healthcare payer (insurance company). The bill provides a civil action for injunctive relief by an offended person or entity, along with payment of their attorney’s fees and court costs.

APLC Comment: APLC supported this bill on a number of earlier occasions. SLI was responsible for overseeing the drafting of the bill. It is based on the Americans United for Life legislative model. We believe it is a very good bill with important objectives. It is constitutional and should be passed. In past years the primary opposition has been by the Alabama Hospital Association.

II. CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO PROHIBIT ABORTION (HB40) - This bill is to provide an Alabama constitutional amendment which would prohibit abortion except for the life of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest. It would make it a Class B felony for any person, other than the mother, to cause or participate in an unexcepted abortion of an unborn child.

APLC Comment: This bill follows the line of similar bills in other states for the purpose of amending a state constitution in order to protect the sanctity of unborn life. Thus far, federal courts have determined such efforts to be unconstitutional. The law is unsettled. We do not believe the State of Alabama is prepared to support litigation that would be filed if this bill were to pass. APLC also cannot support those provisions of the bill which create an exception for rape or incest.

III. AMENDMENT TO WOMAN’S RIGHT TO KNOW ACT (HB39 and SB49) – HB39 is to amend the Woman’s Right to Know Act by requiring the physician to tell the woman that “the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.” SB49 requires an ultrasound. These are in addition to the other information required by the existing law to be given by the physician to the patient.

APLC Comment: The Woman’s Right to Know Act was upheld by the federal court. It has been in force since 2002 and has resulted in the saving of many unborn lives, as well as, giving women contemplating abortion genuine valid information necessary to make the important abortion decision. The Alabama Department of Public Health prepared a first class full color booklet that is required by law to be distributed to women by abortion clinics. While APLC supports the truth of what these bills require, it cannot support them at this time. The Woman’s Right to Know Act is a valuable tool in the fight against abortion. If either requirement is added, a second federal lawsuit is likely to be filed and, under present law, could be found unconstitutional. There is a chance this might adversely impact other parts of the existing act. HB39 is premature and APLC cannot support it at this time. If the constitutional law on abortion sufficiently changes, such a statement could be added to the existing act.

IV. UMBILICAL CORD BLOOD USE ACT (HB444) – The purpose of this bill is to educate pregnant women and others on the potential benefits of umbilical cord blood use and donation and to provide opportunities for the donation and storage for umbilical cord blood when desired by a pregnant woman. The Alabama Department of Public Health will prepare publications to be distributed by healthcare providers. Healthcare facilities and providers who treat pregnant women shall permit them to save their umbilical cord blood or donate it.

APLC Comment: Umbilical cord blood holds great potential for stem cell use. One’s own stem cells are the best source and they may be used by others. Stem cells may be used for the treatment of diabetes, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, etcetera. Stem cells located in umbilical cord blood are a good source and may be easily stored. APLC fully supports this legislation.

V. OTHER BILLS – HB316 creates a civil action for damages for the injury or death of an unborn child. SB301 defines a person generally for Alabama law as human from conception. APLC supports both bills.

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