MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A federal judge nominated by then-President Jimmy Carter has struck down a Alabama law that would have closed three of the state’s five abortion facilities.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued his ruling on Monday in a 172-page decision, declaring that a regulation that mandates abortionists to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital is unconstitutional. The bill had been signed into law in 2013 as a safeguard for women who may need additional care should they become injured during an abortion.
Planned Parenthood of the Southeast, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the abortion facility Reproductive Health Services soon filed a lawsuit thereafter, claiming that he requirement is unnecessary and would close most abortion facilities in the state. Thompson issued a temporary injunction on the regulation while the case moved forward in court, and on Monday, sided with the abortion providers, stating that it is impermissible to make it difficult for mothers to obtain an abortion.
“The resulting unavailability of abortion in these three cities would impose significant obstacles, burdens, and costs for women across Alabama,” he wrote. “The evidence compellingly demonstrates that the requirement would have the striking result of closing three of Alabama’s five abortion clinics, clinics which perform only early abortions, long before viability.”
Thompson also compared a the availability of abortion facilities to the availability of local gun shops.
“Suppose, for the public weal, the federal or state government were to implement a new restriction on who may sell firearms and ammunition and on the procedure they must employ in selling such goods and that, further, only two vendors in the State of Alabama were capable of complying with the restriction: one in Huntsville and one in Tuscaloosa,” he wrote. “Similarly, in this case, so long as the Supreme Court continues to recognize a constitutional right to choose to terminate a pregnancy, any regulation that would, in effect, restrict the exercise of that right to only Huntsville and Tuscaloosa should be subject to the same skepticism.”
Opponents of the law rejoiced after receiving word of Thompson’s ruling.
“As the judge noted today, the justifications offered for this law are weak at best,” stated Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU. “Politicians, not doctors, crafted this law for the sole purpose of shutting down women’s health care centers and preventing women from getting safe, legal abortions.”
But Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, a doctor, said that the bill he signed into law last year was important from a health standpoint.
“Abortion is a fundamental assault on the sanctity of innocent human life, and I believe that it should only be done as a last possible effort to save the life of the mother,” Bentley said in a statement. “As a doctor, I firmly believe that medical procedures, including abortions, performed in Alabama should be done in the safest manner possible. This law ensures that if a complication arises there is continuity of treatment between doctor and patient. This ruling significantly diminishes those important protections. I will always fight for the rights of the unborn, and support an appeal of today’s decision.”
Justice Thompson was also in the headlines in 2003 when he ordered Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the courthouse rotunda. Moore refused, but the monument was later moved to a room that was not open for public viewing. He was later removed from office by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary after he declared that he would not stop acknowledging God, but was reelected as chief justice in November 2013 with 52 percent of the vote.