MONTGOMERY — Four bills that put more regulations on abortions in Alabama will have public hearings this week. One would prohibit almost all abortions after about eight weeks of pregnancy.

House Bill 490 is the “Fetal Heartbeat Act” and makes it unlawful for a physician to perform an abortion if a heartbeat has been detected. Medical experts say a heartbeat can be detected around eight weeks.

Current law allows for abortions at up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Bill sponsor Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, R-Pelham, said she hopes to reduce the number of abortions in the state.

“This bill specifically deals with killing a person with a heartbeat,” McClurkin said today. “We wouldn’t kill a person in a hospital with a heartbeat, we just wouldn’t.

“It is just simply a bill that will require abortionists to check for the heartbeat, let the mother hear the heartbeat, and then, if there is a heartbeat, he cannot do the abortion.”

The bill would require that the physician document the procedure used to determine a heartbeat. Not determining the presence of a heartbeat or performing an abortion when a heartbeat has been determined will be a Class C felony, according to the legislation, unless the abortion was medically necessary because the woman’s life or health were at risk.

Women would not be prosecuted under this legislation.

Similar bills have been introduced in a few other states in recent years. Opponents have said the bills would essentially ban abortions.

There are about 26 co-sponsors on McClurkin’s bill, including Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, and Rep. Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville.

McClurkin last year sponsored the successful legislation to put more restrictions on abortion providers in the state. Proponents said the bill would make abortion safer; opponents said the legislation, which among other things required all abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals, would simply shut them down.

That law is currently being contested in federal court.

48-hour wait

Henry has his own abortion-related legislation. House Bill 489 changes from 24 hours to 48 hours the required wait time between when a woman receives state-mandated information about an abortion and when the procedure can be performed.

Henry’s bill changes the timing in the Woman’s Right to Know Act, which requires abortion providers to give women information, including “agencies that offer assistance, adoption agencies, development of the unborn child, methods and risks of abortion and childbirth, father’s obligations and alternatives to abortion.”

These two and two more abortion-related bills will have public hearings in the House Health Committee at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

For more on this, see Tuesday’s editions.

Mary Sell covers state government for The TimesDaily. She can be reached at msell@timesdaily.com. Follow her on Twitter @DD_MarySell.

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