Federal Judge Finds Alabama Abortion Law Unconstitutional

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Opinion Comes Less Than a Week After a Federal Appeals Court Blocked a Similar Mississippi Law.

A federal judge in Montgomery ruled Monday that a portion of an Alabama law requiring abortion-clinic doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson wrote in a 172-page opinion that the law placed an “impermissible undue burden” on the state’s five clinics, three of which likely would close if the law was enforced.

Judge Thompson said the state’s reasoning for such a law—that it would improve the quality of care for women having abortions—was “exceedingly weak.”

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange will appeal the ruling, a spokeswoman said.

The judge’s opinion comes after a nonjury civil trial in May and June. Planned Parenthood Southeast Inc., the American Civil Liberties Union and others sued the state last year. In their suit, they argued Alabama’s 2013 law undermined Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established a woman’s right to have an abortion.

Louise Melling, the ACLU’s deputy legal director, praised the opinion.

“The justifications offered for this law are weak at best,” she said. “Politicians, not doctors, crafted this law for the sole purpose of shutting down women’s health care centers and preventing women from getting safe, legal abortions.”

Republican Gov. Robert Bentley, a dermatologist who strongly supported the law, said in a statement that he was “extremely disappointed.”

The opinion comes less than a week after a federal appeals court in New Orleans blocked a similar Mississippi law from taking effect. The court said in its decision the law was likely unconstitutional.

Backers of admitting-privileges laws say they protect women by ensuring that any patient experiencing complications from an abortion can be transferred easily to a nearby hospital.

Opponents of the laws say they are medically unnecessary and are a veiled attempt to make abortions less available, since most hospitals will accept any patient in an emergency. Opponents also argued that many abortion doctors, especially in the South, don’t live in the states where they perform the procedures, so obtaining admitting privileges at a local hospital is extremely unlikely. They also say many hospitals have religious affiliations or want to skirt the controversy associated with abortion, making it more difficult for clinic doctors to gain admitting privileges.

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