Yesterday, a federal judge in Alabama held that the state’s law requiring abortion providers to obtain hospital admitting privileges was unconstitutional as applied to the clinics that brought the suit. Enforcement of the law would have closed three of Alabama’s five abortion clinics.
Judge Myron Thompson of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama issued his 172-page opinion [PDF] after a ten-day trial in the case, Planned Parenthood Southeast, Inc. v. Strange. It details the history of violence, harassment, and hostility in Alabama towards abortion providers and the significant obstacles the law would have imposed on women seeking abortions.
In addition, Judge Thompson decided that Alabama’s justifications for the law were “exceedingly weak,” noting that complications from early abortions are “vanishingly rare” and that the requirement would actually undermine the stated goal of ensuring continuity of care for patients.
He concluded, “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.”
Similar admitting privileges laws have been passed recently in a number of states, including Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma. The laws, which are strongly opposed by many groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, are not medically necessary. Their intent is to prevent women from accessing safe and legal abortions by forcing clinic closures.
The court noted that it would issue further relief regarding enforcement of the law as applied to all affected clinics. Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has said he will appeal yesterday’s decision to the Eleventh Circuit once a final order is issued. The Fifth Circuit just last week blocked enforcement of a similar law in Mississippi that would have closed that state’s only clinic. So while we know the issue is not yet completely resolved, we take a moment to celebrate a careful decision that really calls out laws such as this one for what they are: politicians interfering with women’s constitutional rights based on the politicians’—not the women’s—“wisdom.”