Today, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled an Alabama law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals is unconstitutional. In his ruling Thompson stated that the law posed an undue burden on women’s right to abortion. Planned Parenthood and a group of abortion centers in Alabama sued to block the law, arguing that it would close three of the five abortion centers in Alabama.
Interestingly since the lawsuit was found, two of the abortion centers in the state have already shut down. The Alabama Women’s Center in Huntsville shut down after failing to meet minimum safety requirements. The New Woman All Women’s Health Center in Birmingham lost its license after the state Department of Health recorded seventy-six pages worth of violations in 2012. The center was shut down via court order last summer.
That said, it is always frustrating to see pro-life laws struck down. However, this development is not unexpected. Planned Parenthood Southeast shopped for a sympathetic judge and found one in Thompson—an appointee of Jimmy Carter who frequently rules against pro-life legislation. The next step will be an appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The 11th circuit may look to the 5th circuit for guidance, as they have recently considered the constitutionality of two similar laws. They upheld a Texas law requiring admitting privileges for abortion doctors, but struck down a similar law in Mississippi. However, the fact that the Mississippi law would have likely resulted in the closing of the lone abortion center in the state weighed heavily on the judges. However, since there are abortion doctors with admitting privileges in Alabama, this law would not close every clinic in the state. Furthermore, in their ruling on the Texas law, the 5th circuit did not find that increasing the travel distance to obtain an abortion posed an undue burden. Time will tell.
Michael J. New is an Assistant Professor at The University of Michigan–Dearborn and an Adjunct Scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_J_New