Yesterday, a federal judge blocked two abortion laws in Alabama, one that dictates how close an abortion clinic could be to a public school, and another that banned a common second-trimester abortion procedure. The judge, Myron Thompson, ruled that both laws were likely to be found unconstitutional.
The first of the laws, SB 205, required that any abortion clinic within 2,000 feet of a public school be closed. The law would have effectively closed the two remaining abortion clinics in Huntsville and Tuscaloosa. Those two clinics are two of only five providers in the state and perform about half of the state’s abortions. The second law, SB 363, banned doctors from performing the dilation and evacuation procedure in the second trimester.
In his ruling, Thompson wrote that both laws placed an undue burden on women. In the case of SB 205, Thompson wrote that effectively closing the Huntsville and Tuscaloosa clinics, would create a long trip for women seeking those services (Alabama has a 48 hour waiting period). “This burden would become particularly devastating for a low-income woman,” he wrote.
SB 205, in particular, was part of an ongoing legislative campaign to target and close abortion clinics in the state. In 2013, Alabama passed a TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) law that forced the Huntsville clinic to move from its original location to a more expensive location closer to the hospital. Once the Huntsville clinic had been relocated, the state passed SB 205 in May 2016. The Huntsville clinic is located across the street from a public elementary school.
Since the Supreme Court struck down Texas’s omnibus TRAP bill HB2, a number of states have seen laws that meet the court’s standard of “undue burden” have been overturned. The Supreme Court rejected bids from Wisconsin and Mississippi earlier this year effectively eliminating laws that required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges.
After the Supreme Court refused to hear those challenges, Alabama dropped its own, eliminating admitting privileges in the state. The state, however, has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in America, including waiting periods, sonogram laws, and a 20-week cutoff.