New Abortion Restrictions Prompt Heated Fight In Alabama
At one point, members of Black Caucus broke into a round of "We Shall Overcome" as the House speaker called for security to restore order.
Alabama lawmakers on Wednesday sent two bills to the governor's desk that will further curtail abortion providers despite heated protests from Democrats.
At one point, the Black Caucus started singing "We Shall Overcome" and security was called in as Democrats tried unsuccessfully to block the bills in the Republican-controlled House.
If signed by Republican Gov. Robert Bentley, the bills would prohibit abortion clinics from operating within 2,000 feet of any public school for kindergarten through eighth grade, as well as ban the second trimester abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation, or D&E.
The new legislation would likely lead to two clinics shutting down in a state that has become a battleground for abortion rights.
In 2013, Bentley signed a law requiring abortion clinics to have an emergency room doctor willing to sign onto admitting privileges with the clinic. In a state as conservative as Alabama, finding such a doctor within a strict time frame can prove difficult, and one clinic shut down.
House Democrats began Wednesday confident they could filibuster and "run out the clock" for the two bills, said Susan Watson, executive director of American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama.
"But it quickly became clear that the Republican leadership wasn't playing by the rules," Watson told BuzzFeed News.
House Speaker Mike Hubbard allowed little debate and when he called for a vote, the Black Caucus stood up and sang "We Shall Overcome," made famous during the civil rights protests of the1960s.
In the end, the two abortion bills passed on a vote of 73 to 18.
John Knight, a House Democrat, told the Montgomery Advertiser that the battle against the bills was a "horror story."
"I fought in the Vietnam War so that all of us would be safe," he said. "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."
Knight did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment.
The ACLU, which has argued that the restrictions violate Roe V. Wade, has vowed to challenge both laws if they are signed by the governor.
Republicans have defended the school proximity restriction, saying students shouldn't have to be exposed to anti-abortion protesters outside clinics.
"We all agree that protecting our children is a top priority, but this measure isn't about protecting Alabama's children," Watson said. "It's about making a sure a woman who has decided to have an abortion can't get one."