- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - The Alabama Legislature is getting closer to making women wait longer to get an abortion.

The Senate Health Committee voted 7-1 Wednesday to approve a bill that extends the waiting time from 24 hours to 48 hours. The bill by Republican Rep. Ed Henry of Decatur passed the House last week and now goes to the Senate for a final vote. In committee, the seven yes votes came from Republicans and the lone nay vote from Democratic Sen. Billy Beasley of Clayton.

Current Alabama law requires women to receive information, either in person or through certified mail, about abortion alternatives and possible adverse outcomes 24 hours before having an abortion. Henry said women need more time to make a decision that will affect the rest of their lives.

People on both sides of the abortion issue filled the committee’s meeting room to see the vote.

Abortion rights supporter Pam Skaggs of Gulf Shores said women don’t rush to contact an abortion clinic the moment they find out they are pregnant. “They’ve thought about it before they go to the doctor. They’ve thought about it for weeks,” she said.

Tijuanna Adetunji, outreach director for Fresh Anointing House of Worship in Montgomery, said she wished she had taken more time before deciding to have an abortion at 17.

“Once you take a life, there is no going back,” she said.

Henry and Senate Committee Chairman Greg Reed, R-Jasper, said they believe the bill has enough support to win approval in the Republican-controlled Senate with only seven meeting days left in the legislative session.

More than 20 states require a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Two states, Utah and South Dakota, require 72-hour waits.

The House passed three other bills last week to add restrictions to abortion, including one bill banning them when a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is usually at six or seven weeks into a pregnancy. Reed said his committee will vote on those bills next week.

Alabama has five licensed abortion clinics. The Alabama Center for Health Statistics reports 9,076 abortions were performed in Alabama in 2012, and 5,220 were at six weeks or less into the pregnancy.

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