Following on the coattails of the 5th Circuit, Judge Thompson this week struck down the Alabama Admitting Privileges component of the Alabama Women’s Health and Safety Act. The court relied heavily on assumptions that three of Alabama’s abortion centers might close if the law went into effect. Notwithstanding the fact that two other abortion centers would remain open in the state, the court opined that the potential closure of abortion centers would cause women to have to travel more than 50 miles to obtain an abortion. Despite a recent appellate court’s finding that traveling up to 150 miles to obtain an abortion is not a substantial burden, Judge Thompson ignored legal precedent and held that traveling distances of even 50 miles to be an undue burden on a woman’s right to an abortion.
“Judge Thompson’s 172-page opinion is rife with inflammatory rhetoric and light on legal reasoning to put it mildly,” states Allison Aranda, Senior Staff Counsel at Life Legal Defense Foundation. “What is most alarming about the court’s ruling is that it opens the door for pro-abortion groups to argue that not only must the state not substantially interfere with a woman’s right to abortion, but now the state must affirmatively aid and facilitate a woman in obtaining an abortion. What does that look like?” Based on Judge Thompson’s reasoning, if an independent abortion center is not able to comport with local laws then the state must open and operate an abortion center so that women are not unduly burdened from obtaining an abortion. Alternatively, Judge Thompson’s ruling suggests that if an independent abortion center is not able to comport with local laws, then the state should bend the rules for these vitally important medical facilities and allow them to circumvent health and safety standards so that women can have convenient access to abortions. “The court’s reasoning is illogical and disturbing!” concludes Aranda.