Lawsuit Challenges Ala. Law Requiring Hospital Admitting Privileges for Abortion Providers

June 12, 2013 — Planned Parenthood Southeast and the American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday filed a lawsuit seeking to block an Alabama law (HB 57) that requires doctors who provide abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, the New York Times reports.

Supporters of the law have argued it will improve patient safety during emergencies. Opponents contend it is a medically unnecessary and unconstitutional effort to close abortion facilities (Eckholm, New York Times, 6/12).

The law also requires abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory health centers. The clinics will have 180 days after the law takes effect on July 1 to meet the requirements.

Lawsuit's Arguments

The law could force three of the state's five abortion providers to close, the suit contends. Most of the clinics in Alabama rely on physicians who travel from other areas to provide abortions, with local physicians providing follow-up care. Hospitals are unlikely to grant admitting privileges to the out-of-town doctors because the facilities oppose abortion or because the doctors live far away, according to the suit.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, Alabama is the seventh state to require abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals (Gates, Reuters/Huffington Post, 6/11). A federal court blocked a similar law in Mississippi earlier this year.

Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, an attorney with ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project, said the Alabama "law is part of a coordinated national campaign designed to outlaw abortion, state by state." She added that the measure "insults women's intelligence by claiming to be about safety, when the true intent is to shut down clinics and prevent a woman from making a real decision about her pregnancy" (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 6/11).