Alabama residents have come to expect their lawmakers to make conservative decisions, but in the latest scandal over Senate Bill 289 — which many news outlets simply call “The Maternity Bill” — the state’s politicians (who appear to be mostly male) made a bold decision regarding women’s health care.
Alabama residents weren’t just angry at the new legislation, which attempted to repeal two existing (and very important) laws that restrict how many health services women can access — the backlash against the bill was actually so extreme that Sen. Larry Stutts and Sen. Jabo Waggoner, the main co-sponsors of SB289, recently announced that they would be withdrawing the bill entirely.
The laws that would have been repealed are, oddly enough, not even remotely related to controversial topics that tend to dominate women’s health discussions, such as abortion or birth control. Instead, SB289 would have repealed the requirement that women must stay in the hospital for 48 hours after giving birth; the bill would have also repealed an existing requirement that physicians must notify patients in writing after a mammogram if the patient’s results showed dense breast tissue (a common and natural occurrence, but something that makes it harder to detect cancer through a mammogram alone).
According to Stutts, his motivation behind the bill was to give women greater control over their own health (as least as far as maternity stays are concerned), and DecaturDaily.com cited Stutts explaining that “we [Alabama lawmakers] shouldn’t be legislating hospital stays.”
However, after an extensive examination and multiple testimonies from doctors and gynecologists, it became clear that Stutts’s credentials as a doctor may not hold much sway. In fact, as WSFA 12 News notes, court records reveal that one woman under the care of Stutts actually passed away after giving birth and being released from the hospital after 36 hours.
When it comes to the written letter regarding dense tissue, the motive for repealing this law seems a bit murkier; as the Montgomery Adviser has noted, the current letter requirement neither requires additional cancer screenings, nor does it place any more responsibility on the shoulders of the doctors.
In his Montgomery Adviser Opinion piece, Josh Moon described SB289 as a bill “sponsored by seven old dudes… [and] a hateful piece of legislation that benefits only one group: insurance companies that pay for hospital stays and cancer screenings.”
While some may say that Moon’s opinion was melodramatic, it’s hard to ignore that women all over the country — not just in Alabama — struggle to receive adequate health care. For example, less than 40% of all young and sexually active women are screened for sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia, either because they were never told about the importance of these screenings or because they can’t afford the tests.
When it comes to women’s healthcare, any small change — whether good or bad — has a huge impact nationwide.
And this is exactly why Moon wasn’t alone in his opinion, and Alabama’s SB289 was dismissed on Tuesday, March 31.