The last day of the legislative session for the Alabama House of Representatives was a heated one. Several filibusters slowed things down as the final day drew to close, and Republican legislators skipped over several bills in order to push through a last-minute vote on a bill that treats abortion providers like sex offenders.
But the vote almost didn’t happen as members of the House Black Caucus sang “We Shall Overcome” in protest, forcing Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) to call for security. The bill, which eventually passed 73-18, would make it illegal for abortion providers to operate within 2,000 feet of K-8 schools, the same boundary that sex offenders must keep from K-8 schools according to state law.
The bill, which expands restrictions imposed by a similar 2014 law, would force the closure of some of the few clinics left operating in the state. Sen. Paul Sanford (R-Huntsville), the bill’s sponsor, told the “Decatur Daily” that it isn’t meant to limit the number of abortion clinics in the state, but he doesn’t think they should be across the street from schools either:
‘Because they do tend to cause a certain amount of commotion on a regular basis. I’m just trying to protect young, impressionable children and not have them walk past a facility like this on a regular basis, frankly. If it’s not appropriate for a liquor store to be within earshot, I’m not sure it’s appropriate for an abortion clinic to be in earshot of an elementary school, either.’
While it’s hard to argue with the logic of the “commotion” coming from clinics thanks to protestors who tend to surround such places, Dalton Johnson, administrator of the Alabama Woman’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives in Huntsville, says he has retained legal counsel and plans to fight the law:
‘They know they are going to be challenged. They know they are going to be unconstitutional. That money could be spent on so many things. They only care about their agendas.’
As to the protest on the part of the House Black Caucus, Rep. John Knight (D-Montgomery) had this to say:
‘I’ve had a cross burned in my yard. I fought in the Vietnam War so that all of us would be safe. To come back here to think you’re living in a democracy where your voice can be heard, it was not shown here tonight by this legislature.’
Watch below as Knight and other members of the House disrupt the session by singing “We Shall Overcome.”
Featured Image via Flickr licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.