Bloomberg News

ACLU Says It’s Suing Over Alabama Law on Abortion Providers (1)

June 11, 2013

An Alabama law requiring abortion doctors to have staff privileges at local hospitals threatens the ability of three of five clinics in the state to offer that service, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a lawsuit.

The measure, scheduled to take effect on July 1, will unconstitutionally limit a woman’s ability to end a pregnancy in the state before the fetus she carries is viable outside the womb, according to the ACLU’s lawsuit filed today in federal court in Montgomery, Alabama.

“The purpose and effect of this requirement, which is wholly unnecessary and unreasonable, is to impose a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking abortion prior to viability, in violation of their constitutional right to privacy,” according to a copy of the complaint provided by the ACLU. The filing wasn’t immediately available from the court.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Planned Parenthood Southeast Inc., which operates eight health centers in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi, and Reproductive Health Services, a licensed abortion provider in Montgomery, the state’s capital.

A similar law in neighboring Mississippi was blocked in April by U.S. District Judge Daniel Jordan in Jackson. That measure was set to take effect July 1 of last year.

Joy Patterson, a spokeswoman for Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, declined to immediately comment on the ACLU lawsuit.

Governor’s Support

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, a Republican, signed the measure, titled the Women’s Health and Safety Act and also known as HB 57, into law on April 9.

“As a physician and as a governor, I am proud to sign this legislation,” Bentley said in a statement then. “This bill provides appropriate standards of care. It has been endorsed by pro-life groups across Alabama.”

Bentley and Strange are two of nine state and local government officials named as defendants in the ACLU lawsuit. Jennifer Ardis, a spokeswoman for Bentley, said it as “premature for me to comment” because she hadn’t seen the lawsuit.

“HB 57 was championed by anti-abortion politicians as a means to end abortion in Alabama,” the ACLU said in its complaint.

The plaintiffs seek a court order declaring the measure unconstitutional and barring its enforcement. If the law takes effect, three of five abortion care facilities in the state will be forced to stop offering that service, including those in Birmingham, Mobile and Montgomery, the ACLU said.

Religious Opposition

Doctors at those clinics can’t get hospital staff privileges because they either don’t meet minimum patient-admission figures or because of religious opposition, the ACLU said today in a statement.

“If this law isn’t blocked, there will be only two licensed clinics left in the whole state,” in Huntsville and Tuscaloosa, Susan Watson, executive director of the ACLU’s Alabama chapter, said today during a conference call.

The ACLU is seeking injunctive relief, attorney Alexa Kolbi-Molinas said in the conference. A hearing date hasn’t been set, she said.

The case is Planned Parenthood Southeast Inc. v. Bentley, 13-cv-00405, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Alabama (Montgomery).

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Harris in the Chicago federal courthouse at

aharris16@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net


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