A federal judge delivered a sharp blow to Alabama's strict abortion regulations Monday, after finding a recent requirement for abortion doctors is unconstitutional.
The law in question, passed in 2013, required all abortion-providing doctors to obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital — a provision which would have effectively shuttered three of the state's five abortion clinics. (Via WHNT)
The state contended abortion doctors should be linked to a local hospital for the safety of their patients — but the law's opponents argued it imposed impossibly strict requirements on abortion providers for little to no safety improvements. (Via WSFA)
Planned Parenthood CEO Staci Fox, whose group challenged the law in court, said Monday, "We all want to protect patient safety—this law doesn’t do that. Politicians passed this law in order to make it impossible for women in Alabama to get abortions, plain and simple."
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson agreed and blocked the law from going into effect, ruling it imposed an undue burden on women seeking abortions, and didn't serve a compelling state interest. (Via Federal Judicial Center)
Interestingly, in his 172-page opinion Judge Thompson compared a woman's constitutional right to an abortion to the Second Amendment right to bear arms, noting Alabama's law was the abortion equivalent of forcing all but two gun stores in the state out of business. "The defenders of this law would be called upon to do a heck of a lot of explaining — and rightly so in the face of an effect so severe."
Alabama Governor Robert Bently has vowed to fight the ruling in an appeals court. His own statement reads, "As a doctor, I firmly believe that medical procedures, including abortions, performed in Alabama should be done in the safest manner possible."
And Alabama isn't alone — Mississippi is appealing a similar decision made last week which blocked its "admitting privileges" requirement. (Via ABC)
Requiring abortion doctors to get admitting privileges at a local hospital has become a popular tactic for states opposed to abortion. Seven states currently have or will soon have these requirements, and the laws have been blocked by courts in at least four states now.
But the legal standing of such provisions is mixed, thanks to a ruling on a Texas law which upheld "admitting privileges" requirement last year. The state is currently embroiled in another legal battle over even more stringent requirements for abortion clinics. (Via Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal)
The Lost Angeles Times points out Thompson's decision "raises the possibility that this issue will advance to a higher court. ... The Supreme Court often steps in when different courts offer contrasting decisions on the same issue."
Thompson has requested more information from both sides of the case before he determines whether or not to issue an injunction against Alabama's law. Until Thompson makes that decision, a temporary hold on the law will remain in place.