Opponents of abortion are concerned that most their proposals will fail in the Alabama Legislature for the second year even though Republicans now hold an overwhelming majority.
"There are big problems in the Legislature with coming to grips with the changes that need to be done to hamper abortion, much less stop it," said the Rev. James Henderson, director of the Alabama Alliance Against Abortion.
Eric Johnston, president of the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition, said the problem stems from the chairman of the House Health Committee, Republican Rep. Jim McClendon of Springville, deciding that he won't hold any more committee meetings before the legislative session ends.
"It's created a big problem for us. We need him to meet again," Johnston said.
McClendon said his committee, which normally handles abortion-related bills in the House, won't meet again because he's also co-chairman of the Legislature's redistricting committee and he has to prepare new legislative districts that will be considered by the Legislature in a special session starting May 14. "My schedule has become extremely tight," he said.
Designing new legislative districts after each U.S. census is mandatory, and if the Legislature fails to do it, federal courts can draw the districts. The districts will be used for the 2014 elections.
Todd Stacy, spokesman from Republican House Speaker Mike Hubbard of Auburn, said the priority for legislative leaders this session has been improving the state's economy. He called the current Legislature "the most pro-life Legislature in the history of the state" and downplayed concerns about a lack of action.
"It's natural for folks to get concerned about their legislation as the end of the session nears, but there is still plenty of time to pass bills, and I believe you'll see more pro-life legislation passed before the session adjourns," he said.
McClendon said his committee has approved two abortion-related bills that advocates can work to pass in the House and then the Senate if they choose. One bill by Republican Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin of Indian Springs would allow health care providers to decline to perform services that violate their consciences, such as abortions. Another by Republican Rep. Ed Henry of Decatur provides that an insurance plan sold through a health insurance exchange in Alabama can't offer coverage for elective abortion and no private plan can offer abortion coverage as part of its basic coverage. A customer would have to pay extra for coverage.
Both bills would have to pass the House and the Senate with only seven meeting days left in the legislative session.
Anti-abortion groups said that without any more House Health Committee meetings, there appears to be little chance of passing bills to place new restrictions on doctors prescribing abortion-inducing drugs and requiring that sonograms, which are already done before abortions, be done so the screen showing the results is in a woman's line of sight.