Court Orders Trial in Challenge to Alabama TRAP Law


On Monday, a federal court ordered a trial in the legal challenge to an Alabama law that requires all abortion providers in the state to have admitting privileges at area hospitals.

The law, passed last year, had been blocked by the court since June, after reproductive rights organizations challenged its constitutionality. Attorneys for both the State of Alabama and the plaintiffs had asked the court to rule on the merits of the Alabama law without a trial, but the court declined to do so. In the order issued today, the court recognized that while the “plaintiffs have offered substantial evidence that this regulation does almost nothing to protect women’s health,” factual issues regarding the impact of the admitting privileges requirement remain, and those can only be resolved with a trial.

The three clinics challenging the law, which perform approximately 40 percent of all abortions in the state, say that should the law be allowed to go into effect only two clinics will remain open in the state. “This fight is far from over, and it’s a fight we are determined to win,” said Staci Fox, CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast, one of the organizations challenging the law, in a statement following the order. “If this dangerous law goes into effect, three-fifths of the licensed health centers that provide safe, legal abortion in Alabama would be forced to stop providing abortions immediately, leaving many women without access to safe, constitutionally protected medical care.”

The Alabama decision is the latest in a flurry of judicial opinions on the constitutionality of admitting privilege requirements. So far, courts have blocked similar state laws requiring physicians who provide abortion to obtain hospital admitting privileges from taking effect in Kansas, Wisconsin, and Mississippi. But, just last week the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Texas’ admitting privileges law.

A trial date in the Alabama case has not yet been set. 

In the meantime, state lawmakers are wasting no time trying to pass even more abortion restrictions. This week, the Alabama Senate is scheduled to hear in committee a patently unconstitutional bill that could ban abortion as early as six weeks. The full state senate could also debate a bill that would double the state’s mandatory waiting period for an abortion to 48 hours, as early as tomorrow.

The Alabama legislative session adjourns on Monday, April 7.

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Follow Jessica Mason Pieklo on twitter: @hegemommy