A judge for the US District Court for the Middle District of Alabama [official website] on Tuesday delayed enforcement of an Alabama abortion law until March 2014. The Women's Health and Safety Act [text], signed [JURIST report] in April, requires abortion clinics to meet unprecedented medical standards that supporters argue will protect women from unsanitary conditions. These standards require service providers to have admitting privileges to nearby hospitals and facilities to meet health codes for ambulatory surgical centers. Because every hospital has separate requirements for admission privileges, and some clinics are not close enough to hospitals to qualify, many will be forced to shut down because it is not possible to comply. For those that are close enough to qualify, they face deep financial challenges in upgrading to meet health codes that many view as medically unnecessary for abortion procedures. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Alabama and Planned Parenthood have initiated litigation [press release] to challenge the constitutionality of the law, which they argue is not about standards of health care, but rather a political strategy to bring about the de facto end to widely available procedures. Judge Myron Thompson's ruling puts the law on hold [CNN report] pending the outcome of the litigation.
Alabama is one of many states [JURIST backgrounder] to enact restrictive abortion laws in recently. JURIST Guest Columnist LaJuana Davis recently called such measures [JURIST op-ed] "back-door restrictions" on abortion. Last week a state judge struck down [JURIST report] a North Dakota law placing limitations on drug-induced abortions. Earlier this month the Texas Senate passed [JURIST report] an abortion bill which bans abortions after 20 weeks. Also this month North Carolina, Wisconsin and Ohio [JURIST reports] enacted laws which place restrictions on abortion.