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Both Sides Seek Summary Judgment in Lawsuit Over Ala. Admitting Privileges Law

Both Sides Seek Summary Judgment in Lawsuit Over Ala. Admitting Privileges Law

December 18, 2013 — On Monday, Alabama state attorneys and attorneys representing three abortion clinics filed court papers asking a federal judge to issue summary judgment on the legality of a state law (HB 57) that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 12/16).

In June, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the law -- which would also require abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory clinics -- 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 a women's right to an abortion.

In July, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson extended a temporary injunction against the law -- which originally was scheduled to take effect July 1 -- through March 24, 2014. He also scheduled final legal arguments to be due on Jan. 31, 2014 (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/23).

Monday's Filings

On Monday, attorneys on both sides asked Thompson to rule on the law's constitutionality based on their filed legal arguments rather than a trial.

PPSE and the clinic in their suit argued that the law is "medically unnecessary and a political attempt to close clinics," according to the Alabama Media Group. They have said that the law will force several clinics to close.

PPSE CEO Staci Fox said the motion is the "next step in our legal case to protect Alabama women's ability to make their own personal, private health care decisions." She said she is confident "that this law is unconstitutional and ultimately will be blocked."

Meanwhile, attorneys for the state said in their filing that the state Legislature had reasonable grounds to enact the law because of "documented problems with patient care" at existing clinics. "Over the last ten years, the Alabama Department of Public Health has cited abortion clinics for several serious violations," the attorneys wrote, adding, "Some of these recent episodes raised the sorts of concerns about continuity of care that are relevant to the issues in this case" (Chandler, Alabama Media Group, 12/16).

State attorneys also said the law could not be considered an undue burden because doctors at two of the state's clinics have admitting privileges (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 12/16).