SCOTUS abortion ruling affects state

Published 1:01 am Tuesday, June 28, 2016

AG withdraws Alabama appeal

The U.S. Supreme Court tossed out a Texas abortion law in what supporters have deemed a victory for abortion rights and a blow to a similar law passed in Alabama in 2013.

The ruling, which was 5-3, is the most momentous abortion decision the high court has made in two decades.

The Texas law had required that all abortion clinics meet the state standards as surgical centers and for doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges to hospitals.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the majority opinion in which he said, “there is no significant health-related problem that the new law helped cure. We agree with the District Court that the surgical-center requirement, like the admitting-privileges requirement, provides few, if any, health benefits to women, poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions, and constitutes an undue burden on their constitutional right to do so.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, in her concurring opinion, said, “When a state severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstance may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners, faute de mieux, a greater risk to their health and safety.”

In Alabama, the state legislature passed the Women’s Health and Safety Act in 2013, which contained similar restrictions to those struck down in Texas.

Part of the Alabama law – that abortion doctors have admitting privileges — was struck down by U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson two years ago.

The state appealed the ruling to the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

But after Monday’s ruling, Attorney General Luther Strange said the state would dismiss that appeal.

“While I disagree with the high court’s decision,” he said, “there is no good faith argument that Alabama’s law remains constitutional in light of the Supreme Court ruling. Accordingly, my office will dismiss our appeal of the 2014 federal court ruling declaring Alabama’s abortion clinic law unconstitutional.”

Alabama’s law also called for abortion clinics to meet safety codes of surgical centers. That portion of the Texas law was struck down Monday.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, 10 abortions were performed for Covington County women in 2001. Only one of those was for a teen. Gov. Robert Bentley issued a statement Monday afternoon conveying his dissatisfaction in the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“I am disappointed to see the U.S. Supreme Court make a political decision in their ruling of the Texas abortion clinic regulation,” he said. “As a physician, I am concerned about the medical condition of all women, especially when a woman is facing a serious health procedure. In this Texas case, the Supreme Court is making a medical ruling, without any sound medical expertise. Requiring a doctor to have admitting privileges at a local hospital protects the doctor and the patient.

The state joined the filing of the Texas amicus brief in February. The governor said he supports the regulating of unsafe health practices at women’s health clinics.

“The conscious decision to end human life should never be cause for celebration in a civilized society,” he said. “There is value to all human life and all humanity.”

Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., also expressed her disappointment.

“I am disappointed by the court’s ruling,” she said. “It’s amazing to me that some want to lower the standard of medical care just so more abortion clinics stay open, rather than requiring them to improve.”

Local pro-lifer Jan White said she was concerned about the ruling.

“I had hoped the U.S. Supreme Court would uphold the Texas law,” she said. “It’s common sense to me that abortionists, and abortion facilities where a surgical procedure takes place, should be held to the same basic standards of care we expect in other surgical centers in our country.”

White said that the Texas law was intended to protect women.

“If an abortion results in the woman hemorrhaging or other serious complications, the attending physician should have admitting privileges in a local hospital for the woman’s care,” she said. “This ruling struck down this basic requirement.”

White said the Supreme Court ruling restricts what states can do to protect women and their unborn children.

“So, Congress must now pass legislation for these basic requirements,” she said. “I believe in the sanctity of human life – both the mother and her unborn baby. As our Declaration of Independence states, ‘we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable right,’ and the first one listed is life.”