Alabama Governor Robert Bentley [official website] on Tuesday signed [press release] the Women's Health and Safety Act [text, PDF], which imposes increases safety requirements on abortion clinics and practitioners within the state. The Act requires clinics that provide abortions to meet the same standards as ambulatory care centers, requires doctors who provide abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals, and includes strong enforcement against doctors or clinics that do not comply. Alabama's Congress passed the legislation last week, after an initial approval [JURIST reports] by the state's House of Representatives [official website] in February. Planned Parenthood has denounced [press release] the bill, stating that it will lead to "an almost certain legal challenge" as the provisions "do not support women's health and would be difficult for nearly all providers to meet." Bentley said that "[a]s a physician, and as a governor, I am proud to sign this legislation."
A number of states have passed restrictive abortion bills recently. Also last week, the Indiana House of Representatives passed legislation [text, PDF] which would require that clinics which offer the drug commonly called the "abortion pill" or "RU486" must also meet certain design and equipment standards as clinics which provide surgical abortions. Last month the Arkansas legislature voted to override [JURIST report] Governor Mike Beebe's recent veto of the Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act [Act 301, PDF], which bans abortions "of an unborn human individual whose heartbeat has been detected ... and is twelve (12) weeks or greater gestation." Days earlier Arkansas lawmakers voted to override the governor's veto [JURIST reports] of the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act [HB 1037, PDF] which bans most abortions in the state 20 weeks after conception. That law made Arkansas the eighth US state to ban or restrict abortions after 20 weeks. Similar laws restricting reproductive rights [JURIST backgrounder] are currently facing legal challenges in Arizona and Georgia [JURIST reports].