Pro-choice activists hold a vigil outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 23, 2012 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty

Federal court strikes down Alabama abortion law

A federal district court delivered a big win for proponents of reproductive rights today, striking down an Alabama statute intended to close abortion clinics in the state. Irin Carmon reported:
A law that would have closed three out of Alabama’s five abortion clinics is unconstitutional, ruled a federal court judge on Monday. The 2013 law, similar to legislation passed across the country, would have required abortion providers to seek admitting privileges at local hospitals. […]
In an encyclopedic 172-page decision that followed a three-week trial, Judge Myron H. Thompson wrote that the law violated the standard set by the Supreme Court mandating that states cannot place an “undue burden” on woman seeking an abortion.
The ruling comes about a month after Judge Thompson, a Carter appointee, blocked part of Alabama’s abortion-clinic law from taking effect.
It also comes on the heels of a similar victory for supporters of reproductive rights in Mississippi, where 5th Circuit of Appeals kept open the state’s last remaining clinic where women can legally terminate pregnancies.
One of the key elements of both cases is state regulation of admitting privileges.
Robin Marty reported today on why pro-choice advocates are “cautiously optimistic that recent court rulings may finally stem the tide on these medically unnecessary restrictions.”
Both cases will be appealed. Carmon’s msnbc report has some terrific details on what to watch for as the process continues.
Update: The ACLU and Planned Parenthood, which brought the Alabama case, added in a press statement:
A federal judge has struck down a harmful state law that would have severely restricted access to safe, legal abortion by forcing all but two of the licensed health centers in Alabama to stop providing abortions. Laws like these – which are opposed by the American Medical Association (AMA) and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) – single out doctors who provide abortions and require them to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital.
After a thorough review, that included a 10-day trial, the judge found that:
* The law would actually make women less safe by “undermining the patient-care goals put forward by the State”;
The state’s justifications for the law were “exceedingly weak” and “speculative”;
* The law “does not reflect the practice of 21st century medicine”; and
“Evidence compellingly demonstrates” the requirement would “have the striking result of closing three of Alabama’s five abortion clinics.”
Disclosure: my wife works for Planned Parenthood, but played no role in this case or in my report.