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ACLU Files Suit Against Ala. Admitting Privileges Law To Protect Sole Tuscaloosa Clinic

July 15, 2015 — The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Alabama on Friday filed a federal suit against a state antiabortion-rights law (HB 57) to prevent the sole clinic in Tuscaloosa from closing, WSFA 12 News reports (WSFA 12 News, 7/11).

Background

The law mandates that abortion clinics must meet the same building standards as ambulatory surgical centers. The law also requires that abortion providers have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/24/14). Alternatively, clinics can arrange a written agreement with a local physician who has admitting privileges (WSFA, 7/11).

Three Alabama abortion clinics, Reproductive Health Services in Montgomery and Planned Parenthood Southeast health centers in Birmingham and Mobile, filed suit challenging the law in 2013.

A federal judge temporarily blocked the law shortly after the lawsuit was filed, later issuing an opinion that struck down the admitting privileges requirement as applied to the plaintiffs in August 2014 (Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check, 7/13). The state has appealed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/24/14).

Lawsuit Details

ACLU filed the suit on behalf of the West Alabama Women's Center and Willie Parker, a physician who provides abortion care at the clinic. According to the lawsuit, the law's admitting privileges requirement could force the clinic to close. The plaintiffs said the sole hospital in Tuscaloosa "is unwilling to grant Dr. Parker [admitting] privileges for reasons unrelated to his competency as an abortion provider" (RH Reality Check, 7/13). The plaintiffs added that the regulations are aimed exclusively at abortion providers and do not include physicians who provide different office-based medical procedures that are less safe.

In addition, ACLU noted that the Tuscaloosa clinic provides about 40% of abortions in the state and is one of only two clinics in the state that offer abortion services for women in their second trimester of pregnancy (WSFA 12 News, 7/11).