Judge considers Alabama abortion restrictions


MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A federal judge is considering whether to block two new Alabama abortion restrictions that ban clinics near schools and outlaw a common second-trimester abortion procedure.

Gov. Robert Bentley in May signed into law a ban on abortion clinics within 2,000 feet of public K-8 schools. He also approved a ban of a common second-trimester abortion procedure known as dilation & evacuation, or D&E. A Tuscaloosa abortion clinic and doctor asked a judge to block the provisions, saying they would close two of the state’s busiest abortion clinics and largely end access to second-trimester abortion in the state.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson began hearing testimony Tuesday in the request for a preliminary injunction. Testimony was to continue Wednesday.

The law was scheduled to take effect Aug. 1, but Thompson in July issued a restraining order to block enforcement until after he heard testimony in the October hearing.

Dilation & evacuation, or surgical abortions, are used in the majority of procedures in the second trimester, after 13 weeks of pregnancy, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. In the procedure, the contents of the uterus are removed with forceps.

Alabama lawmakers who supported the bill have called surgical abortion “barbaric” and likened it to medieval forms of punishment. Dr. William Parker, a physician who provides second-trimester abortions in Alabama, wrote in a statement submitted to the court that the law would prevent him from performing abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. He said the only alternative to D&E is to induce labor in a hospital.

Similar procedure bans were enacted in Kansas and Oklahoma but those laws were temporarily blocked by the courts.

The location bill targeted the Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives in Huntsville, which is located down the street from a K-8 magnet school. The restriction could also affect a Tuscaloosa women’s clinic. Lawmakers who supported the legislation said abortion clinics should not be near schools.

According to Alabama Department of Public Health data, the two clinics performed 5,833 abortions in 2014, 72 percent of all abortions in the state that year.

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