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Alabama lawmakers send new abortion restriction bills to governor

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

By Verna Gates

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Reuters) - Alabama measures to extend an abortion waiting period and tighten rules for minors seeking the procedure are headed to the governor's desk, but a move to ban abortions based on evidence of a fetal heartbeat appears stalled in the legislative session that ends on Thursday.

The state Senate approved a bill on Thursday that requires a parent or guardian's approval before an abortion. If a girl wishes to forego that approval, it must be proven in court that she cannot consult her parents, and the court can appoint a guardian ad litem for the unborn child.

That came a day after the state Senate passed another abortion measure that would lengthen the 24-hour waiting period to 48 hours before the procedure can be performed.

Republican Governor Robert Bentley expects to sign both bills after a legal review, a spokeswoman said.

"The governor is pro-life and is in support of those bills," spokeswoman Jennifer Ardis said.

If signed by the governor, the legislation could be challenged in court by Planned Parenthood, which operates two clinics in Alabama, said Nikema Williams, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood Southeast.

"This is government intrusion at its finest," she said.

Only Utah and South Dakota require a waiting period of more than 24 hours, both states setting theirs at 72 hours, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit sexual health research organization.

The measure calling for a longer waiting period in Alabama passed after a filibuster from Senator Vivian Figures, a Democrat who opposed the bill.

In an attempt to demonstrate its invasive nature, Figures proposed an amendment prohibiting vasectomies except to prevent death or disability and also requiring a 48-hour waiting period. The amendment was voted down primarily along gender lines.

"I am pro-life, but these bills are not," she said after the second measure passed on Thursday. "They are pro-men making decisions for women bills."

Two other abortion bills approved by House lawmakers last month will not be considered by the Senate, said Derek Trotter, spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh.

One sought to prohibit abortions after a heartbeat was detected, which can be as early as five or six weeks into a pregnancy. The other called for a woman carrying a fetus with a lethal anomaly to consider perinatal hospice options.

"Similar laws are being challenged in federal court, and we are waiting to see the outcomes before we tax our own resources," Trotter said.

A federal judge on Wednesday set a May trial date to determine whether a 2013 Alabama law requiring doctors who perform abortions to obtain hospital admitting privileges poses a significant impediment for women seeking an abortion.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Gunna Dickson and Richard Chang)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/140403/alabama-lawmakers-send-new-abortion-restriction-bills-governor