SB12 ‘abortion’ definition flawed

Legislators need to revise the definition of “abortion” to limit the most disturbing consequences of SB12. Currently, all of its provisions apply to the removal of a fetus after a miscarriage. I’m not sure what the drafters intended, but I’m pretty sure that was not the intent of the sponsors. (HB418 uses identical language.)

Here I will set forth the actual language of the definition. Then I will set forth the only way it can be interpreted. Then I will set forth the way I suspect it was supposed to be drafted.

First, the definition included in the current bill:

(1) ABORTION. The intentional use or prescription of any instrument, medicine, drug, or any other substance or devise (sic) or method to terminate the life of an unborn child, to terminate the pregnancy of a woman known to be pregnant with an intention other than to produce a live birth and preserve the life and health of the child after live birth, to remove an ectopic pregnancy, or to remove a dead unborn child who died as the result of natural causes, accidental trauma, or a criminal assault on the pregnant woman or her unborn child.

Second, the only possible interpretation. For clarity I have added a colon and numerals, but the wording is identical to that of the bill:

ABORTION:
The intentional use or prescription of any instrument, medicine, drug, or any other substance or devise (sic) or method:
(1) to terminate the life of an unborn child,
(2) to terminate the pregnancy of a woman known to be pregnant with an intention other than to produce a live birth and preserve the life and health of the child after live birth,
(3) to remove an ectopic pregnancy,
or (4) to remove a dead unborn child who died as the result of natural causes, accidental trauma, or a criminal assault on the pregnant woman or her unborn child.

The grammatical structure requires an interpretation in which “to remove an ectopic pregnancy” is a procedure that constitutes an abortion, as is “to remove a dead unborn child.” The sentence structure only allows “other than” to apply to the clause in which it is included.

The Senate Health Committee at least partially recognized this interpretation by amending the definition to delete “to remove an ectopic pregnancy.”

Here is what I suspect the sponsors intended:

ABORTION:
The intentional use or prescription of any instrument, medicine, drug, or any other substance or device or method:
(1) to terminate the life of an unborn child, OR
(2) to terminate the pregnancy of a woman known to be pregnant with an intention other than: (a) to produce a live birth and preserve the life and health of the child after live birth, (b) to remove an ectopic pregnancy, or (c) to remove a dead unborn child who died as the result of (i) natural causes, (ii) accidental trauma, or (iii) a criminal assault on the pregnant woman or her unborn child.

The problem is that the existing language does not support this definition of “abortion” because the OR I have inserted is not in the bill.

The problem gets worse because of the Senate Health Committee’s deletion of “to remove an ectopic pregnancy.” Under this version of the definition, the Health Committee’s amendment actually broadened the definition to include ectopic-pregnancy removals as a type of abortion. So even in the unlikely event a judge decides the Legislature must have mistakenly omitted the OR and rewrites the statute to correct it, he must also conclude that the Health Committee intended to include removal of ectopic pregnancies as an abortion procedure.

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Alabama politics, Law

3 responses to “SB12 ‘abortion’ definition flawed

  1. Pippa Abston MD, PhD, FAAP

    Great point! I took it as multiple examples of abortion– I thought that the way the phrases were in parallel with that particular comma placement, it could not be interpreted otherwise. I still think that is the intention, to include dead babies in the definition. Otherwise they would have stopped after the first phrase of “terminate the life of an unborn child.” The reason they added “terminate the pregnancy” was probably in case a woman intended to terminate but a live baby resulted intact (if it later died, those involved would have said they didn’t terminate the baby bc it died of natural causes).

  2. It was disclosed yesterday by Sen. Clay Scofield that SB12 was actually drafted by a pro-birth (I can’t refer to them as pro-life and keep a straight face) lobbyist group: http://americansforlife.com/about-us/

    Are you against SB12? Do you think women should have the right to say no when they want to protect their mental and emotional health without their medical practitioner being held accountable with fines up to $15K, possible jail time and being open to litigation from the father/grandparents if he/she heeds their request? Sick of supposed little government legislators turning around and trying to mandate BIG Gov’t?

    Sign the Petition! http://www.change.org/petitions/alabama-voters-opposed-to-forced-ultrasound-sb12

    Join us on Facebook!
    http://www.facebook.com/groups/172092036240125/

  3. Gloria Gray

    No Way does this bill need to amended! Vote No on the entire bill. This is an attack on women’s rights and it is time it stopped! Scofield is the one who needs to be amended!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s