By Dave Andrusko
After a seemingly endless series of delays, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson is scheduled to begin to hear arguments today in a case brought by Planned Parenthood Southeast and the American Civil Liberties Union again Alabama’s HB57. Alabama’s Women’s Health and Safety Act, passed in 2013, requires abortionists to have admitting privileges in a nearby hospital. Witnesses will testify in Montgomery, Alabama, through June 5 with a ruling to come at a later date.
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A similar Texas law was recently upheld unanimously by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. Other comparable laws have been passed in Mississippi and Wisconsin but have been challenged by the usual suspects. A trial over Wisconsin’s law starts May 27.
An Associated Press story today gave a preview of what is expected.
“Clinics operated by Planned Parenthood Southeast in Birmingham and Mobile and Reproductive Health Systems in Montgomery say they will have to close because they use traveling doctors without admitting privileges. The West Alabama Women’s Center in Tuscaloosa and the Alabama Women’s Center in Huntsville use local doctors who have admitting privileges at hospitals in those cities.
“Proponents of the law say problems arise because traveling doctors remain in a city only a few hours and aren’t around to handle complications. Attorney General Luther Strange’s staff said in a court filing that the state will present witnesses, including physicians, who will testify that having a doctor on hand to manage complications and admit a patient to the hospital will improve the quality of care. The attorney general’s office also says there is a need for additional credentialing because one of the seven physicians performing abortions in Alabama is being prosecuted by the federal government on Medicaid fraud charges.
“’The evidence at trial will show that abortion clinics have continued to fail to provide appropriate care to their patients in line with industry standards,’” state Solicitor General Andrew Brasher said in a court filing.
It was not until the last paragraph of Phillip Rawls’s story that this key piece of information came out.
“The Alabama Department of Public Health reports the two clinics not threatened by the law are the state’s largest, with the Tuscaloosa clinic performing 3,503 abortions in 2012 and the Huntsville clinic 1,451. The department reports the Birmingham clinic recorded 1,396 abortions in 2012, the Mobile clinic 1,275, and the Montgomery clinic 978.”