MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – A federal judge says an Alabama law restricting abortion doctors is unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled Monday that state lawmakers exceeded their authority when they passed a law last year requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have hospital admitting privileges. Thompson issued an order temporarily blocking enforcement of the law.
Thompson’s decision comes days after a federal appeals court blocked a similar law in Mississippi.
Planned Parenthood and others filed a lawsuit over the Alabama law last year.
Supporters of the law say it would make clinics safer. Clinic operators say the law would force the shutdown of all but two of Alabama’s five clinics.
Thompson says the Alabama law would place an undue burden on women.
Governor Robert Bentley issued this statement about the judge’s ruling:
“We are extremely disappointed by today’s ruling. Abortion is a fundamental assault on the sanctity of innocent human life, and I believe that it should only be done as a last possible effort to save the life of the mother. As a doctor, I firmly believe that medical procedures, including abortions, performed in Alabama should be done in the safest manner possible. This law ensures that if a complication arises there is continuity of treatment between doctor and patient. This ruling significantly diminishes those important protections. I will always fight for the rights of the unborn, and support an appeal of today’s decision.”
Click here to download and read the Planned Parenthood Opinion
Part of the ruling and 107-page opinion that has caught the attention of local activists on either side is a section calling out the practices of Huntsville’s anti-abortion protestors as threatening.
Judge Thompson wrote:
“The court finds that the protests at the Huntsville private practices go beyond the run-of-the-mill political protests prompted by an issue as morally and politically charged as abortion. The protesters in Huntsville were not targeting abortion patients and trying to dissuade them from going through with the procedure. Cf. McCullen v. Coakley, 134 S.Ct. 2518, 2527 (2014) (describing “sidewalk counseling” protests and engagement at abortion clinics). Instead, they were approaching women who sought to carry their pregnancies to term. Rather than attempting to change general public perceptions on the issue of abortions or dissuade women from obtaining abortions, the court must infer that these protesters sought to threaten economic destruction for any doctor who enabled the provision of abortion within the city. They succeeded twice in ending a doctor’s obstetric practice.”
While reproductive rights activists believe the opinion was right on target, anti-abortion activist Reverend James Henderson says the judge`s opinion left him speechless.
“Some of the testimony was just absolutely amazing it painted a picture of all types of hostility and anger and threatening environment,” said Henderson. “[Those are] things that we`re not at all familiar with.”