Federal judge: Alabama can’t enforce its new abortion law


The Planned Parenthood logo. (Reuters)

A federal judge has told the state of Alabama that it can’t enforce a new law requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges in nearby hospitals U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson said in his decision Monday that the challenged portion of Alabama’s 2013 abortion law places an undue burden on women in the state, as the Alabama Media Group reported.

The law’s supporters argue that the measure is designed to make abortions safer in the state, but Thompson determined that the law is unconstitutional and issued an order temporarily blocking its enforcement. He promised to issue a final order in the case after considering more statements from each side’s legal team, as the Associated Press explained.

In his lengthy, 172-page opinion, Thompson agreed with state abortion providers that the law would have the effect of closing three of the state’s five remaining clinics, “clinics which perform only early abortions, long before viability,” Thompson wrote, adding: “Indeed, the court is convinced that, if this requirement would not, in the face of all the evidence in the record, constitute an impermissible undue burden, then almost no regulation, short of those imposing an outright prohibition on abortion, would.”

This is the second time in about a week that abortion restrictions requiring doctors to obtain admitting privileges have encountered trouble at the federal level. Last week, a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals panel sided with Mississippi’s single remaining abortion-providing clinic in a decision against a similar law in that state.

The physicians at Jackson Women’s Health Organization had sought — and were denied — admitting privileges at several hospitals in the area. “Pre-viability, a woman has the constitutional right to end her pregnancy by abortion,” the Fifth Circuit’s panel wrote, adding that the law improperly passed along that constitutional obligation to neighboring states with clinics that remain open.

As the New York Times explained, the decision from the appeals court did not overturn Mississippi’s law; rather, it blocked the state from using it to close the single remaining clinic as legal challenges to the measure itself proceed.

Earlier this year, a different panel of judges from the same appeals court upheld some challenged provisions in an omnibus abortion law passed by Texas legislators. Another portion of the Texas abortion law, which will require clinics in the state to meet ambulatory surgical center standards, went before a federal judge on Monday.

Last week, Thompson delayed his decision in the Alabama case in order to consider the Fifth Circuit’s Mississippi decision.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has already promised to appeal the decision.

Here is the full decision:

235820667 Abortion Clinic Decision Aug. 4, 2014

Abby Ohlheiser is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.
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