MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – A federal judge is delaying his decision on an Alabama law that could close some abortion clinics, saying he needs more time to review an appeals court ruling earlier in the week blocking a similar measure in Mississippi.
At issue is a section of a 2013 law that requires doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals in case of complications.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson of Montgomery presided at a trial over the constitutionality of the law in June and told attorneys that he hoped to rule by the end of July. But he sent them notice Thursday that he needed extra time and would have a ruling by Monday. On Tuesday, a federal appeals court blocked a law that could have closed the sole remaining abortion clinic in Jackson, Mississippi.
In Alabama, Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama and others challenged the law because three of Alabama’s five abortion clinics use out-of-town doctors who don’t have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The physician requirement has been on hold pending Thompson’s ruling.
Proponents of the law say it is a safety measure to protect the health of women. Opponents say many hospitals won’t give admitting privileges to out-of-town doctors, and the law restricts abortion through unnecessary regulation.
The ruling will affect clinics in Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile that use traveling physicians.
Alabama’s two largest abortion clinics, in Tuscaloosa and Huntsville, use local doctors with admitting privileges and won’t be affected by Thompson’s ruling. Figures compiled by the state Department of Public Health show the two clinics handled 5,069 of the 8,469 abortions performed at Alabama clinics in 2013.
The Birmingham and Huntsville clinics aren’t performing abortions temporarily for reasons other than the challenged law.
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