No state wants this, especially Alabama, so the Legislature’s redistricting committee is hard at work preparing a plan to be considered by a special session scheduled to start in two weeks.
Because there are only six meeting days left in this session — and because redistricting must be done — other bills are getting pushed aside, much to the disappointment of their sponsors and advocates.
This year, common are complaints from opponents of abortion that their bills are among those that will fall by the wayside. This would be a bitter pill for this group to swallow because a Republican majority in both houses seemed to promise that anti-abortion legislation would have smooth sailing.
Two bills supported by the Alabama Alliance Against Abortion might make it to the governor’s desk. One would allow health-care providers to decline to perform services that violate their consciences; the other would prohibit health-insurance plans sold in Alabama to cover elective abortions. But both must still pass the House and Senate, and time is running out.
More controversial bills — the ones that place restrictions on doctors prescribing abortion-inducing drugs, that require vaginal or abdominal ultrasounds to be shown to pregnant women, and that define life as beginning at fertilization and implantation — are currently stalled. Supporters are not optimistic.
On the other side are those who caution the Legislature to go slow on these more controversial matters. Limiting a physician’s ability to decide what care is best for patients is a questionable area for legislators. Requiring women to undergo and watch ultrasounds raises privacy concerns, not to mention worries over negative publicity. And when a bill that specified when life begins was put to Mississippi voters last year, they rejected it.
What is missing from this flurry of anti-abortion activity is a seeming lack of legislative concern with preventing abortions by preventing pregnancy through sex education and access to contraception.
But that is not the way the anti-abortion groups and their legislative supporters want to go. They want restrictions, and they want them now. If they don’t get them, these groups will consider the bills that will be passed to be, in the words of Randy Brinson, chairman of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, “symbolic but irrelevant.”
So, expect that in the next legislative session there will be even more pressure on GOP legislators to pass anti-abortion legislation that anti-abortion groups consider real and relevant. When faced with that kind of pressure in the past, legislators tend to pass extreme legislation to satisfy those they have disappointed.
Extreme legislation is seldom good legislation.