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Alabama May Soon Have The Nation's Most Restrictive Abortion Law

May 15, 2019
Originally published on May 15, 2019 6:21 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Alabama is one signature away from having one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country. The state Senate passed the bill last night that makes performing an abortion at any stage of pregnancy a felony. The only exception is if a woman's life is threatened or in case of a lethal fetal anomaly. There are no exceptions for rape or incest. Dr. Yashica Robinson is the medical director of the Alabama Women's Center for Reproductive Alternatives that is one of only three clinics left in the state that offer patients abortion services.

Dr. Robinson, thanks so much for being with us.

YASHICA ROBINSON: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: If the governor in Alabama signs this bill, what does that mean for your clinic and the community it serves?

ROBINSON: If the governor does sign this bill, that means that it will limit options severely for patients and women who come to my clinic. It will limit their options if they find themselves pregnant with an uncomplicated or desired pregnancy. It also limits physicians' ability to do what is best for their patients when they have to consider potential prosecution.

MARTIN: Well, I wanted to ask about that because the language in the bill, while very specific in some ways, is vague in others. It says the ban won't apply in the case of a medical emergency, but that's up for debate as to what that is. The bill says a medical emergency is based on, quote, "reasonable medical judgment." So the stakes are high if you, as a physician, make a call that could land you in prison.

ROBINSON: Exactly. It's left up to what they call reasonable medical judgment. And we don't know exactly whose reason or whose judgment is going to be the final call. And if - in any instance, if a physician's judgment is being called into question, that physician will have to - even if they know that they're doing what's best for the patient, they still will have to contemplate whether the other person looking at it will agree and whether that could cost them prison time. And there's no other situation where a physician has to consider their own personal interests and their freedom above that of their patients prior to making a medical decision that they know is best for the patient.

MARTIN: I mean, how is this going to change your work? I mean, are you going to continue to do this work?

ROBINSON: Well, obviously, I'm an advocate for women's health. I'm an obstetrician-gynecologist. And I know that abortion access - safe abortion access - is very important. It's vital for so many reasons. Of course, if it becomes illegal in Alabama, I won't continue to provide abortion care in Alabama. But I will go to places where I can continue to provide so that I can increase access in those areas. And I will do everything I can in Alabama to try to help get my patients to places where they can continue to have access to safe abortion care.

MARTIN: I mean, this is such an emotional debate. I do want to play a clip for you. This is from Republican State Representative Terri Collins. She's defending her bill last month.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TERRI COLLINS: This bill is focused on that baby that's in the womb that is a person. That baby, I believe, would choose life.

MARTIN: How do you respond to that argument?

ROBINSON: I feel like that is an insult. It makes it very clear to women that the state of Alabama does not feel that the woman is as important and she is. It also states that they don't feel that the physicians are important, and the physician's medical training and background is important. Women are able to make the decisions that they know are best for them. They can do that in conjunction with their physicians. And there is - it is very important that government does not insert themselves into those personal, complex medical decisions.

MARTIN: Dr. Yashica Robinson, medical director at the Alabama Women's Center for Reproductive Alternatives, thank you for your time.

ROBINSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.