Federal judge strikes down Alabama abortion law

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A federal judge is striking down a controversial Alabama abortion law as unconstitutional saying it violates a woman's due process rights to seek the procedure.

Montgomery-based U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued his 172-page opinion Monday following a weekend delay in which he said he needed more time to study a federal court ruling last week that overturned a similar law in Mississippi.

The law states that abortion doctors must obtain admitting privileges at area hospitals before they can practice at a clinic. The requirement can be difficult to obtain if a hospital refuses to extend the privileges and could lead to the closure of the clinic for non-compliance. 

Judge Thompson said the law, named the Alabama Women's Health and Safety Act, was entirely too burdensome on abortion doctors and violated a woman's right to have an abortion. Thompson went on to say that the law would clearly lead to the closure of three of the state's five abortion clinic.

Supporters of the law say it is intended to make the abortion process safer for women, while opponents say the law's requirements are not medically necessary and are a backdoor attempt to force the clinics to closure.

Following Judge Thompson's ruling, Governor Robert Bentley's office issued a statement saying he supports an appeal. His statement reads:

"We are extremely disappointed by today's ruling. Abortion is a fundamental assault on the sanctity of innocent human life, and I believe that it should only be done as a last possible effort to save the life of the mother. As a doctor, I firmly believe that medical procedures, including abortions, performed in Alabama should be done in the safest manner possible. This law ensures that if a complication arises there is continuity of treatment between doctor and patient.  This ruling significantly diminishes those important  protections. I will always fight for the rights of the unborn, and support an appeal of today's decision."

The ACLU was thrilled with the ruling, calling it a win for a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy.

"This was clearly an attempt about shutting down the clinics and it was not about making women safer," said Susan Watson, Executive Director of ACLU.

The Judge also denied the state's arguments that abortion is somehow potentially less safe than other surgeries. The court sided with one abortion doctor who testified that a surgical abortion procedure is quote, "Safer than a shot of penicillin."

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said he would appeal the ruling when the court enters a final judgement.

Judge Thompson's ruling says the case is not closed because the not all issues of the litigation are resolved. A temporary restraining order remains in effect.

Copyright 2014 WSFA 12 News.  All rights reserved.