On Thursday, US District Judge Myron Thompson nullified two abortion laws in the Middle District of Alabama. The two laws SB 205 and SB 363 required all clinics within 2,000 feet from K-8 public schools be shut down and ban doctors from performing the fetal-demise (dilation and evacuation) abortion procedure from the second trimester. In 2016, the same court had provisionally blocked both laws through a preliminary injunction and the appeal verdict was pending under the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. ACLU Alabama had appealed for the two laws on behalf of two women’s clinics in Alabama claiming that abortion providers were being subjected to strict legal requirements.
The judge claimed the two laws were undemocratic and bade the state from enacting the procedures, which had been signed into law in 2016 by former Republican an Alabama Governor Robert Bentley. In his ruling, Thompson claimed that the school vicinity law, which was only of a kind in the United States, and the fetal-demise law placed a superfluous gratuitous burden on a woman’s ability to opt for an abortion. He added that it would lead to a closure of two of the five abortion clinics in Huntsville and Tuscaloosa where 72% of the state’s abortions are conducted. This would create long trips for women seeking abortion services and devastate the low-income earners.
The decision adds to other 41 abortion restriction laws enacted by the state legislatures in the US in the first half of 2017. Last year, the Supreme Court also annulled a law in Texas requiring clinics to meet hospital-like standards and clinic doctors to have admission rights at nearby hospitals.
However, the ruling was a huge blow to pro-life activists in Alabama and conservatives in other states. They claimed the verdict undermined the US Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in the case of Wade vs Roe 1973. The American Civil Aviation Liberties Union in Alabama supported the judgment claiming that the laws would have imposed a climate of hostility.