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Federal judge to decide on constitutionality of Alabama abortion law

[JURIST] Judge Myron Thompson of the US District Court for the Middle District of Alabama [official website] on Wednesday set a trial date of May 19 to determine the constitutionality of an Alabama law passed last year requiring doctors who perform abortions to obtain hospital admitting privileges. The Women's Health and Safety Act [text] was passed last year, but Judge Thompson extended [Reuters report] a temporary restraining order to keep the law from taking effect until a final judgment has been made. Supporters argue that the law intended to ensure women will obtain adequate health care. Abortion providers have said that the new requirements could result in the closure of many facilities with traveling physicians. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Planned Parenthood, ACLU and Reproductive Health Services [advocacy websites]. The Alabama Senate is currently considering four additional abortion bills that the Alabama House of Representatives recently passed.

Abortion continues to be a hot-button legal issue throughout the US, with a number of states proposing laws to limit reproductive rights [JURIST backgrounder]. On Friday West Virginia's Governor vetoed a bill [JURIST report] that would have banned abortions later than 20 weeks after conception. Last week the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld [JURIST report] a Texas law similar to the one enacted in Alabama that requires physicians performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Also last week the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled [JURIST report] that the Kansas legislature can withhold federal funding for two Planned Parenthood clinics.

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