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2/3/2014 - Feb 2013 SLI Educational Update - The 2014 Pro-Life Agenda for the Alabama Legislature



To:                  SLI Supporters                                  

 Date:               February 2014  

 From:              A. Eric Johnston

 Re:                  The 2014 Pro-Life Agenda for the Alabama Legislature

              Each year, Southeast Law Institute drafts and provides legal assistance on pro-life legislation for the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition (“APLC”) and other family groups who support the pro-life effort.  The sanctity of life is one of SLI’s priority areas of concern. 

             In 1994, SLI first drafted The Health Care Rights of Conscience Act.  The purpose of the bill is to protect employers and employees from being discriminated against for declining to provide healthcare services related to abortion, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning and sterilization.  Originally, the proposed legislation was open ended, but after objections from a number of groups, it was restricted to the most heinous of medical activities.

             During these years, the bill has been drafted and redrafted to comply with various objections.  Surprisingly, there has been significant opposition from virtually every special interest group that can be imagined.  Over time, we have addressed their concerns and, we believe, come up with a bill this year that will be passed by the Alabama Legislature.  There is some misplaced concern about whether the bill might adversely affect the disabled, elderly or infirm.  Euthanasia was one of the services in an earlier draft of the bill.  That was removed, since it is not legal at this time and to avoid any possibility of placing those classes of persons at some risk.  The bill does not condone any of the four services, rather it protects healthcare providers who have conscientious objections to participating in them.

            The Health Care Conscience Bill originated in the house as HB31, sponsored by Representative Becky Nordgren.  The bill has already made significant progress in the House.[1]  APLC and other family groups will be lobbying the passage of this bill.  The bill will be given priority by legislative Republican leadership, who have the majority members in each chamber of the Legislature.

             Another bill that may be introduced is the Heartbeat Bill.  It is based on the idea that an abortion will not be performed after the existence of a fetal heartbeat can be determined.  This type legislation would reduce the time after which abortions can be performed.  It also has high value for educating legislators on the reality of the pre-born person. 

             A prenatal hospice information bill may be considered.  We are all familiar with hospice for the elderly and infirm.  It is a very valuable service given to the patient and his or her family during a difficult time.  However, little consideration is given to the family who has an unborn child suffering from a severe or fatal anomaly.  Those families are faced with the possibility of the death of their unborn child through natural causes prior to or at birth.  The goal of a prenatal hospice information bill is to provide assistance to those families for these difficult times.  It will be a very valuable resource in educating legislators, as well as members of the public, of the humanity of the unborn child.

             There is the possibility of amendments to the existing Woman’s Right to Know Act.  That law was first passed in 2003 and has been a valuable resource in providing informed consent to women who are considering abortion.  However, after ten years, laws and circumstances have changed and amendments to update the Act may be possible.  The danger with amending an existing act is it may result in a lawsuit to enjoin its operation.  The Woman’s Right to Know Act was tested in court after its passage and was upheld in virtually all of its provisions.  At this time, no legislation has been filed to amend the Woman’s Right to Know Act.  Any legislation that is filed to change the existing law will be reviewed closely to be sure it will be as constitutionally sound as possible.

             There is some doubt about whether the Legislature will be aggressive in passing pro-life legislation this year.  It is the first time the Republicans have been in control of the Legislature during an election year.  Many legislators have opined they do not want any contentious legislation and need to get on the election trail as soon as possible.  We appreciate the Alabama Legislature’s passing the Women’s Health and Safety Act last year.  That was a major step to protect women.  We are hopeful the elections for the new Alabama Legislature, beginning in 2015, will have pro-life minded legislators to protect the banner of life in Alabama.

             It cannot be emphasized enough how important the 2014 mid-term elections will be.  Educate yourself on the candidates for state senator and state representative, as well as your United States Representative to Congress.  As you can see on the pro-life legislation, the outcome of the elections will determine what laws will be passed.

[1] As an aside, at the public hearing in the House Health Committee, for the first time ever in the Alabama Statehouse, a lobbyist for gay issues testified.  He was concerned with what effects the bill might have on embryonic stem cell research in the treatment of HIV/AIDS.  His concern was misplaced, since stem cell research is governed by federal law and this bill has nothing to do with whether or to what extent it can be done.


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