Federal judge rules Alabama abortion restriction unconstitutional

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A federal judge struck down parts of a controversial Alabama law Friday that requires abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson had blocked the state from enforcing the law, but went on to rule it unconstitutional last week.

Thompson ruled that the provision puts an undue burden on women and would cause many abortion clinics to close: Four of Alabama’s five clinics would likely have been forced to close had the provision been upheld.

“The impact of the law on the right of Alabama women to choose to have an abortion will simply be enormous,” Thompson wrote. “The staff­ privileges requirement would make it impossible for a woman to obtain an abortion in much of the State. It is certain that thousands of women per year­­ – approximately 40 percent of those seeking abortions in the State­­ would be unduly burdened.”

The provision in question came from the 2014 Women’s Health and Safety Act, which put in place a litany of requirements for abortion clinics, including requirements that clinics be classified as an “ambulatory service” and adhere to all of the restrictions therein.

“We applaud the court for protecting women’s access to safe, legal abortion in Alabama,” Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said in a news release. “As a health care provider, we’ve seen the grim consequences for women when politicians put safe abortion out of reach.”

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering the constitutionality of a similar Texas law. In its statement, Planned Parenthood noted that a study published in the American Journal of Public Health shows “the harm to Texas women facing tremendous hurdles to access safe, legal abortion, including traveling hundreds of miles, multi­-day trips, and increased cost – if they can access an abortion at all.”

Neither National Right to Life or the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition responded to requests for comment on the recent ruling.

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