Mobile area residents showed their displeasure with and support for a near total abortion ban over the weekend with marches and demonstrations downtown.
Residents took to Bienville Square after the state legislature passed a new law criminalizing abortion by making it a felony for a doctor to provide an abortion at any stage of pregnancy and did not provide exceptions for incest of rape. Participants held up signs and listened to speakers before starting the marches.
For pro-choice advocates the event, organized by members of the Mobile County Green Party, was an opportunity to make their voices heard. Katherine Brown said she wanted to help provide that opportunity.
“We’re here to push back against this anti-human law,” she said. “We feel this law will restrict human rights.”
Brown said it is clear the legislature wanted to directly attack the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed abortion access. She said she doesn’t believe the 25 men who approved the bill in the Alabama Senate should have the right to interfere with female reproductive rights.
Pro-life activists, who brought their own signs to the march event as a form of counterprotest, felt differently about the law.
“I’m encouraged about what has happened,” Jean Sullivan said. “I’m glad the state is willing to stand up for life.”
Dr. Margaret Boozer, a gynecologist and former abortion provider, said the law could put at risk routine reproductive health procedures that aren’t considered abortions, and overall standard of care.
While she acknowledged there is an exception in the law for considerations for the health of the mother, Boozer argued that in situations where a pregnancy needs to be terminated because of what is known as an incomplete miscarriage, the risks to the mother’s health could be debated.
“I hope that’s not the case, but you’re entering into a gray zone,” she said.
The “gray zone” could leave some doctors unsure about the legality of the care they will provide in the reproductive health arena.
With the new law being specifically designed for a court challenge, Boozer said she hopes it will be struck down.
As for laws in neighboring states that ban abortions after a heartbeat is detected, Boozer said a heartbeat can be detected as early as the first six weeks of a pregnancy, which is before many woman find out they’re pregnant.
“Six weeks is extremely early,” she said. “Many women have no idea they’re pregnant at that point.”
Paulette Catherine Bolan, a nurse and pro-life activist in Baldwin County, said she feels the abortion law is “a wonderful step.” Bolan said she was also in favor of striking down exemptions for rape and incest. Bolan wanted to stress that “adoption is a viable option.”
The law comes at a time when Mobile’s Planned Parenthood clinic is closed temporarily for renovations. Patients in the Mobile area are currently being referred to clinics in New Orleans, Pensacola, Fla., Tuscaloosa, Huntsville and Montgomery, depending on location and medical needs, according to information provided by Planned Parenthood Southeast.
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