Constitutional Law

Judge overturns law that would close three of Alabama's five abortion clinics


A federal judge has struck down an Alabama law requiring abortion doctors to have admission privileges at local hospitals.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson of Montgomery said in his decision (PDF) on Monday that the law could close three of Alabama’s five abortion clinics, report the National Law Journal, the Huffington Post, the Montgomery Advertiser and Al.com.

Thompson had delayed his ruling to allow him to study a decision on a similar law in Mississippi, according to Al.com. The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Mississippi law last week because it would have closed the state’s only abortion clinic. A different 5th Circuit panel upheld a Texas admission privileges law, finding it doesn’t affect “the vast majority” of women seeking abortions in Texas.

Thompson said abortion providers operate in a climate of “violence, harassment and hostility” and the fears led doctors to testify under pseudonyms, behind a curtain. Amid this climate, the number of abortion clinics in the state had declined from 12 in 2001 to five today.

The admissions privilege law would close abortion clinics in Montgomery, Birmingham and Mobile, leaving abortion providers in Tuscaloosa and Mobile, Thompson said.

Thompson said a gun restriction with the same effect wouldn’t pass muster. “Suppose, for the public weal, the federal or state government were to implement a new restriction on who may sell firearms and ammunition and on the procedure they must employ in selling such goods and that, further, only two vendors in the State of Alabama were capable of complying with the restriction: one in Huntsville and one in Tuscaloosa,” Thompson wrote. “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.”

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