News Law and Policy

Trial Date Set in Case Challenging Alabama Admitting Privileges Law

Jessica Mason Pieklo

In May, a federal court will hear evidence on the impact of Alabama's admitting privileges law in considering whether to let it take effect.

On Wednesday, a federal judge set a May 19 trial date in a case challenging the constitutionality of an Alabama law that requires doctors who perform abortions in the state to obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

The trial date was announced two days after U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson refused to grant requests by both sides to rule in their favor without a trial, and as a temporary restraining order blocking the law from taking effect was set to expire. With the trial date set, Judge Thompson also extended that temporary restraining order to keep the law from taking effect until a final judgment is issued in the case.

The non-jury trial will address what the court identified as significant factual disputes on the impact of the law—should it go into effect—between the reproductive rights organizations challenging the law and attorneys for the state defending it. The three clinics challenging the law, which perform approximately 40 percent of all abortions in the state, say that the law would result in only two clinics remaining open in the state. Attorneys for the state argue those claims are hypothetical and overstated, and the only way to assess the impact of the law is to let it take effect.

The challenge is one of several legal challenges to admitting privileges requirements passed in states run by anti-choice lawmakers. A federal appeals court blocked a similar law in Wisconsin from taking effect, and attorneys for the state have asked the Supreme Court to review that order. Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the constitutionality of a similar Texas law. Meanwhile, the Fifth Circuit will hear arguments on the constitutionality of Mississippi’s admitting privileges requirement, which threatens to close the only clinic in the state. Arguments in that case will take place in New Orleans on April 28.

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