July 2, 2013 — A federal judge on Friday granted a temporary restraining order blocking Alabama from enforcing a law (HB 57) that places new restrictions on abortion providers, the Montgomery Advertiser reports (Lyman, Montgomery Advertiser, 6/29). The law was scheduled to take effect on July 1 (Harris, Bloomberg Businessweek, 6/29).
The law, which Gov. Robert Bentley (R) signed in April, would require that abortion providers obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals and that abortion clinics meet the same building standards as ambulatory clinics ( Women's Health Policy Report, 6/12).
The American Civil Liberties Union last month filed the suit on behalf of Planned Parenthood Southeast and Reproductive Health Services, an abortion provider in Montgomery. The groups claimed the law would force three of the state's five clinics to close, placing an unconstitutional burden on women's right to an abortion (Bloomberg Businessweek, 6/29).
Restraining Order Details
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson said the temporary restraining -- which applies only to the admitting privileges requirement -- would remain in place until July 12, adding that the clinics should not face penalties while the case proceeds. Thompson noted the order should not be considered predictive of a ruling on an injunction against the law.
However, Thompson added that the plaintiffs were likely to prevail on their claim that the law would unduly restrict abortion rights because some state residents would have to travel 200 miles to obtain abortion services if three of the state's abortion clinics closed. Thompson wrote in the ruling, "Women seeking an abortion will face a substantial new obstacle in obtaining one, and therefore stand to suffer a deprivation of constitutional rights as well as the numerous health risks attendant to delaying abortion" (Montgomery Advertiser, 6/29).
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R) in a statement said, "This is an important law to protect the health and safety of Alabamians."
Susan Watson -- executive director of ACLU of Alabama -- in a statement said, "We're grateful that the court stepped in to prevent politicians from taking away a woman's ability to make this personal and private decision" (Bloomberg Businessweek, 6/29).