Women’s Health Advocates Challenge Alabama Law That Would Force Clinics To Stop Providing Abortions

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Planned Parenthood Southeast, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the ACLU of Alabama are joining forces to challenge HB 57, a new state law that would force most of Alabama’s health clinics to stop offering abortion services. Gov. Robert Bentley (R) approved the abortion clinic restrictions in April, and they are set to take effect on July 1.

Under HB 57, Alabama’s abortion providers will be forced to comply with new, burdensome regulations within 180 days. Clinics will need to update their facilities to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical clinics — an unnecessary standard that typically requires health clinics to make expensive renovations like widening their doorways, installing water fountains, and updating their air conditioning systems — and abortion doctors will have to obtain admitting privileges from local hospitals.

Three of Alabama’s five abortion clinics will be unable to comply with the new regulations if the law goes into effect at the beginning of July. Two of those clinics are operated by Planned Parenthood. Unless HB 57 is successfully blocked in court, Alabama will no longer have any health facilities that provide abortion care in any of its three most populous cities: Birmingham, Mobile, or Montgomery.

“This law is part of a coordinated national campaign designed to outlaw abortion, state by state,” Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, a staff attorney at the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a press release. “This law insults women’s intelligence by claiming to be about safety, when the true intent is to shut down clinics and prevent a woman from making a real decision about her pregnancy.”

Even though abortion opponents claim that laws like HB 57 are important measures to protect women’s safety, women’s health advocates disagree. They say these types of restrictions constitute the Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or TRAP — a popular anti-choice tactic designed to indirectly limit reproductive rights by forcing abortion clinics to close their doors. TRAP laws are currently threatening to shut down abortion clinics in states like North Dakota, Indiana, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Medical professionals don’t support TRAP laws. Just earlier this week, a national group representing thousands of OB-GYNs across the country publicly came out against any type of anti-abortion legislation that compromises doctor/patient relationships by imposing a political agenda onto medical care. Doctors have also spoken out specifically against Alabama’s law. “Requiring doctors who provide abortions to have staff privileges at a nearby hospital won’t make women safer and, in fact, could jeopardize their health by depriving women in Alabama access to safe, high-quality health care,” Dr. Anne Davis, an OB-GYN who serves as the consulting medical director at Physicians for Reproductive Health, said in a statement in reference to HB 57.

Women’s health advocates are hoping that the case in Alabama will reflect the outcome of a similar lawsuit in Mississippi, where a federal judge recently blocked a TRAP law from taking effect. Without that court decision, the only abortion clinic left in the entire state of Mississippi would have been forced to close.