On Friday afternoon, a federal judge temporarily blocked a new law in Alabama that would have forced most of the health clinics in the state to stop providing abortion care. HB 57 was set to take effect on Monday, but Friday’s ruling delays that deadline until July 18.
Alabama’s law would impose burdensome regulations on the state’s last five abortion clinics. Clinic buildings will need to make unnecessary and expensive renovations to their facilities, like widening their doorways, and abortion doctors will need to obtain admitting privileges from local hospitals. These restrictions are the exact same type of laws that are forcing abortion clinics in other states to close their doors. And they’re the same measures that thousands of activists in Texas are currently protesting.
U.S. District Judge Myron H. Thompson temporarily blocked HB 57 to give the court more time to consider whether the new law should be allowed to stand. The federal judge pointed out that similar laws in other states have provided “evidence” of the “near impossibility” of complying with the stringent abortion restrictions. Thompson warned that Alabama’s new restrictions will have a “permanent destabilizing effect on the provision of abortions in this State, as clinics will have to constantly struggle under threat of closure or ceasing services to maintain a medical staff that is qualified under the law.”
Women’s health advocates praised the federal judge’s ruling on Friday. “We’re grateful that the court stepped in to prevent politicians from taking away a woman’s ability to make this personal and private decision,” Susan Watson, the executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, said in a statement. “We will continue to fight to ensure that these decisions can be made by a woman with her family and her doctor, not by politicians sitting in Montgomery.”
The ACLU has maintained that these laws are part of a coordinated campaign to restrict women’s access to abortion by shutting down abortion clinics across the country. In Alabama specifically, three of the state’s five clinics will be forced to shut down under HB 57. Major medical groups, like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, also oppose these type of regulations on abortion providers — pointing out that they don’t actually do anything to improve medical care or keep women safe.
Nevertheless, these abortion clinic restrictions are currently advancing in several other states. The stakes are especially high in Texas, where thousands of activists are fighting to block the proposed laws, due to the Lone Star State’s size and population. But similar measures to force abortion clinics to close their doors are also taking hold in Mississippi, North Dakota, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Ohio.