Two Deep South States Take Anti-Choice Steps

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(WOMENSENEWS)–Alabama became the fourth state last week to approve a state license plate carrying an anti-abortion slogan and new regulations in South Carolina are raising the costs of abortion and was a factor in the closing of one clinic.

Over the objections of abortion rights advocates, Alabama legislators have approved the use of taxpayers’ funds to produce specialty license plates bearing the words, “Choose Life”-widely considered to be an anti-abortion slogan.

The License Plate Oversight Committee voted 6-3 on Tuesday to begin production of $50 plates beginning Dec. 1.

Alabama becomes the fourth state to approve the “Choose Life” slogan for vehicle plates. Similar plates were approved in Florida, South Carolina and Louisiana, and all are being challenged by abortion rights advocates in court.

The “Choose Life” campaign was led by the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition Education Fund, an anti-abortion group that says sales of the plates will raise money for programs that help women who want to keep their babies or put them up for adoption. Advocates charge that the agencies that receive the funds actually provide few to no services to pregnant women and use the funds to promote fundamentalist Christianity.

And in South Carolina, an abortion clinic has closed and others face increasing costs associated with compliance to new regulations supported by anti-abortion activists.

A federal judge ruled last month that the state’s new regulations on abortion facilities are constitutional and to date five have met the new requirements and received a license.

The five who have complied include three abortion facilities that fought the new regulations in federal court, said Jan Easterling, a spokesperson for the state health department. In Beaufort, a Planned Parenthood abortion facility qualified for the license but has since closed, she said.

The new regulations, which apply to facilities that perform more than five abortions per month, set standards on such things as airflow and doorway widths and require abortion facilities to provide all patient information to the state. They also require a registered nurse to be on duty and that a list of counselors, which includes clergy and psychologists, must be provided to women seeking abortions.

Chris Jueske, chief executive of South Carolina Planned Parenthood, said the organization had complied with the regulations, however the group’s abortion facility in Beaufort has since closed.

“The regulations were a contributing factor,” he said.

Planned Parenthood has increased its charge for a first-trimester abortion from $380 to $395 over the past few months, he added.

When the rules were passed by the General Assembly in 1996, the state had 10 abortion facilities. Since then, two abortion practitioners who owned a total of four clinics in the state have died and their offices have closed.

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