Federal Judge Permanently Strikes Down Abortion Restriction in Alabama

Law Would Have Stopped All but One Facility in the State From Providing Abortions

March 25, 2016 2:30 pm

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A federal district court has permanently struck down a law which singles out doctors who provide abortions and would require them to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital.

The challenge was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Alabama, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The law is similar to one of the restrictions being considered by the Supreme Court in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which was argued on March 2.

While an earlier decision applied only to plaintiffs in the Alabama case, today’s decision confirms that ruling applies to all women’s health centers in the state.

“This ruling protects the health of thousands of Alabama women by ensuring their access to safe and legal abortion,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney for the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “The court evaluated the medical evidence and agreed with the medical experts that this law provides no health benefit to any woman seeking abortion care.”

The law would have severely restricted access to safe, legal abortion by forcing all but one of the licensed health centers in Alabama to stop providing abortions.

The decision comes just as the Alabama legislature is considering multiple abortion restrictions, including another bill, SB 205, designed to close abortion clinics and a constitutional amendment, HB 300, that would ban abortion altogether.

“In Alabama, we continue to fight onerous restrictions designed only to close clinics and prevent a woman who has decided to have an abortion from actually getting one,” said Susan Watson, executive director of ACLU of Alabama. “Today’s decision reaffirms what we already knew — that this legislature’s continued attempts to close clinics are not only bad for women’s health, but they’re unconstitutional. Period.”

In today’s ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson recognized that the law would “make it impossible for a woman to obtain an abortion in much of the State” and, as such, “thousands of women per year . . . would be unduly burdened.”

The court found that a significant number of women would be prevented from obtaining an abortion entirely, and “others would be able to obtain abortions only after considerable delay, increasing the risks associated with the procedures,” the opinion said. “[A] delayed procedure would likely become a denied procedure for many women.”

“[T]here is a significant risk that some women, faced with the inaccessibility or unavailability of an abortion provider, would pursue dangerous, unregulated abortions,” the opinion said.

The American Medical Association and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have said they oppose laws like the one in the Alabama case because it does not make women safer. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that abortion has over a 99 percent safety record. As the judge found, these laws put women at risk because they force quality health care providers to close.

Similar admitting privileges restrictions threaten access to safe, legal abortion across the South. While the Supreme Court considers this regulation in its consideration of HB2 in Texas, courts have blocked admitting privileges requirements in pending lawsuits in Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Wisconsin.

The plaintiffs in Alabama were also represented by the law firms Wilmer Hale and Sabel & Sabel. The plaintiffs are Planned Parenthood Southeast and Reproductive Health Services.

Today’s ruling is at:

https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/al-final-order-planned-parenthood-southeast-v-strange

More information on the Alabama case can be found at:

https://www.aclu.org/cases/planned-parenthood-southeast-inc-v-strange

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