Feb. 7 (Bloomberg) -- An Alabama law mandating that doctors who provide abortions have local-hospital admitting privileges will safeguard women’s health, a state attorney said in the latest fight over such requirements.
“This law is intended to protect a woman’s life and the health of a fetus” and doesn’t deny them access to the procedure, Deputy Solicitor General Andrew L. Brasher told a U.S. judge at a hearing over the constitutionality of the law.
U.S. District Judge Myron H. Thompson in Montgomery has temporarily blocked Alabama’s enforcement of the measure until March 24. The American Civil Liberties Union, which sued to invalidate the law, claims it will force three of five clinics to close, abridging women’s rights to the procedure.
“It does not advance women’s health,” ACLU attorney Alexa Kolbi-Molinas said during arguments in a summary judgment hearing lasting more than an hour.
Similar statutes are under attack elsewhere. In Texas, the state won a federal appeals court ruling allowing it to enforce the law as it seeks to overturn a judge’s ruling striking down the measure. In Wisconsin, a U.S. appeals court upheld a judge’s ruling temporarily blocking the mandate. That case is scheduled for trial May 27.
The ACLU claims the Alabama statute will force clinics to close in Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile, the three largest cities, leaving only those in Huntsville and Tuscaloosa. The law, signed last year by Governor Robert Bentley, a Republican, was originally to take effect July 1.
In court today, Kolbi-Molinas said doctors who provide abortions are not seeking hospital privileges because they know they won’t get them. Doctors fear the denials, which are entered into a state database, will harm them professionally, she said.
Thompson questioned the ACLU’s statistical analysis on clinic closings and called its argument a “fiction.”
Brasher said clinic closings would not unduly burden women’s rights because they can obtain abortions in neighboring western Georgia and the Florida panhandle.
“Do you believe this statute is valid?” Thompson asked.
“Absolutely,” Brasher said.
Thompson, a 1980 appointee of President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, said he would rule by Feb. 23.
The case is Planned Parenthood Southeast Inc. v. Strange, 13-cv-00405, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Alabama (Montgomery).
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