published Friday, June 28th, 2013

Federal judge blocks part of new Alabama abortion law

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A federal judge temporarily barred a key part of Alabama’s new abortion clinic law from taking effect Friday, ruling he needed more time to review claims by clinic operators who challenged it.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson said that while it appeared Planned Parenthood Southeast Inc. and others would ultimately win their lawsuit against the law, he stopped the provision from taking affect only until July 12 to allow time for additional legal work.

Planned Parenthood argued that three of Alabama’s five abortion clinics would have to close because part of the law requires clinic doctors to have approval to admit patients at a nearby hospital.

The provision is likely unconstitutional because it appears to impose an “undue burden on a woman’s right to choose abortion,” Thompson wrote.

The judge ordered Gov. Robert Bentley, who signed the law, Attorney General Luther Strange and others to make sure state officials know the provision cannot be enforced.

Strange said he was disappointed with the ruling.

“This is an important law to protect the health and safety of Alabamians, and my office will continue to vigorously defend the law so that it may be implemented as soon as possible,” he said in a statement.

The governor said he supports the law despite the judge’s decision.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which fought the law with Planned Parenthood organizations, said the blocked portion was similar to a Mississippi law blocked earlier this year by another judge and a bill passed in Wisconsin.

“The law is part of a coordinated national campaign designed to outlaw abortion, state by state,” said attorney Alexa Kolbi-Molinas of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

The law was approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Bentley this spring. It had been introduced several times without success, but was approved after a Birmingham abortion clinic surrendered its license following a series of medical problems.

Opponents said the hospital requirement would force Planned Parenthood centers in Birmingham and Mobile and Reproductive Health Services in Montgomery to stop providing abortions because the doctors haven’t been able to get admitting privileges from local hospitals. They said reasons include hospitals’ opposition to abortion and requirements that state physicians must admit a minimum number of patients.

West Alabama Women’s Center in Tuscaloosa and Alabama Women’s Center in Huntsville meet the physician requirement, the ACLU said.

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