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Judge strikes Alabama law protecting women’s safety because it would close abortion facilities

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A federal judge this morning struck down an Alabama law requiring abortionists to be able to provide continuity of care, because its medical strictures would close 60 percent of the state's abortion facilities.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson wrote in a 172-page decision that the requirement that abortionists have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their office “would have the striking result of closing three of Alabama’s five abortion clinics.”

Based on that result Judge Thompson, who was named to the federal bench by President Jimmy Carter 34 years ago, said that the “Women's Health and Safety Act” would violate the Supreme Court's 1992 decision, Casey v. Planned Parenthood. That ruling forbids states from passing laws that would constitute an “undue burden” on a woman's “right to choose.”

Abortion facilities in Huntsville and Tuscaloosa have doctors on staff who have admitting privileges at local hospitals, but the remaining state's facilities do not, mostly relying on out-of-state doctors who fly in to perform abortions.

“If this requirement would not, in the face of all the evidence in the record, constitute an impermissible undue burden, then almost no regulation, short of those imposing an outright prohibition on abortion, would,” Thompson concluded.

Pro-life leaders said the ruling set a dangerous precedent. “Following Thompson’s flawed logic, he would rather keep open an abortion facility open – even if it was the likes of Kermit Gosnell and his filthy ‘House of Horrors’ – than close an abortion facility, no matter how dangerous it is for women,” said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue. “This puts the fabricated ‘right’ of an abortionist to operate whatever kind of shoddy, dangerous back-alley business he wants above the lives and health of women.”

“Without this law, abortionists with documented histories of incompetence are allowed to continue inflicting their quackery upon unsuspecting women,” he added.

The law's supporters were not surprised by the reversal, because of Thompson's record, accusing Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of shopping for a friendly judge.

His decision came days after a three-day panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a 2-1 ruling striking down an identical Mississippi law because it would shutter that state's last abortion facility, the Jackson Women's Health Organization.

“This ruling must be appealed by the state in the interest of protecting women from substandard practices that endanger their lives every day,” Newman said. “Thompson’s ruling reflects absolutely no compassion or concern for the protection of women from substandard operators, as states have a duty to do.”

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The abortion lobby rejoiced at its short string of victories. “This ruling will ensure that women in Alabama have access to safe, legal abortion,” Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said.

But Operation Rescue noted a number of health and safety violations at Alabama abortion facilities, writing in a press release that:

  • Planned Parenthood in Mobile was cited for numerous violations including failing to follow up on patients complaining of complications;
  • Reproductive Health Services in Montgomery was cited for failing to follow infection-control protocols that had the potential of spreading infection or disease to multiple patients;
  • The West Alabama Women’s Center in Tuscaloosa was cited last year for multiple violations including failure to wash hands or to sanitize surfaces between patients;
  • The Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives in Huntsville, which recently closed because its facility could not meet standards, employs abortionist Raymond Lopez who recently spent every weekend for six months in jail due to a court order in a domestic case. That facility’s plans to relocate next to a middle school have been put on hold; and
  • At Planned Parenthood in Birmingham, which recently closed under suspicious circumstances, employs abortionist Aqua Don E. Umoren, who is facing discipline for incompetence and negligence related to the incompetent abortion, which was done on a woman suffering an ectopic pregnancy that Umoren failed to diagnose with disastrous consequences to the patient. That case remains open.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of abortionists by the ACLU, claimed higher medical standards in the case of botched abortions are unnecessary.

Susan Watson, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, wrote, "Major medical organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, oppose" admitting privileges.

Both the AMA and ACOG signed a 2003 statement saying, “Physicians performing office-based surgery must have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, a transfer agreement with another physician who has admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, or maintain an emergency transfer agreement with a nearby hospital.”



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