A federal judge in Montgomery issued a decision Monday saying that a trial will be held to determine whether one of Alabama's abortion laws is restricting women's right to procedure across the state.
The new law requires that abortion clinic doctors be approved to admit patients to nearby hospitals. Supporters of the law say it aims to make the procedure safer. Opponents contend that it is clearly aimed at forcing the closure of clinics through unnecessary regulations.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson says the trial will address just one issue, whether the law violates the due process rights of women who want an abortion. Judge Thompson set aside every other issue raised by both sides.
[DOCUMENT: Judge Thompson's abortion ruling (.pdf)]
Judge Thompson explained in his decision that it is clear there are serious factual questions in the law as to whether a physician who conducts abortions at clinics in Mobile, Birmingham, and Montgomery could get admitting privileges at local hospitals.
The state's case, defended by Attorney General Luther Strange's office, argues that making sure a doctor could admit abortion patients to a hospital is a fundamental health safeguard for women who seek an abortion.
Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) issued a statement following the judge's decision saying:
"The fact that this case is going to trial is obviously a setback for the pro-abortion forces who hoped that the federal judge would toss out this much-needed law involving women's health and safety issues. Liberal groups like the ACLU and the abortionists challenging this law often put their own left-wing political agendas ahead of what is best for the health and well-being of women and the unborn babies they carry, and I appreciate that Judge Thompson has already granted the State summary judgement in several portions of this case."
Opponents, including Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, say they're pleased with Judge Thompson's overall ruling, adding that they're looking forward to getting their day in court.
"This law has absolutely nothing to do with protecting women's health. Rather, it's just another attempt by politicians prevent a woman from getting a safe and legal abortion, pure and simple," said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, a staff attorney at the ACLU.
Opponents could be fighting an uphill battle in some respect, however, because a federal judge and appeals panel in Texas have already upheld a similar law there.
The law was passed in 2013 and was immediately fought by opponents who say three of Alabama's five abortion clinics would be forced to close if it is allowed to go into effect. The law is currently on hold.
The Alabama Legislature is considering several other bills regarding abortion including one that would ban the procedure if a fetal heartbeat is detected and one that would extend the waiting period for an abortion from 24 to 48 hours.
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