Robert Bentley, Alabama's governor and a trained physician, has expressed disappointment that a law he signed last year requiring abortionists in the state to have hospital admitting privileges was struck down by a federal judge. “We are extremely disappointed by today’s ruling,” Bentley stated. “As a doctor, I firmly believe that medical procedures, including abortions, performed in Alabama should be done in the safest manner possible,” he said, explaining that the law in question “ensures that if a complication arises there is continuity of treatment between doctor and patient.” “This ruling significantly diminishes those important protections,” he charged. On Aug. 4, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled against a 2013 Alabama law requiring doctors who perform abortion procedures to have hospital admitting privileges. Thompson said the law would make it more difficult for women living in the three largest Alabama cities — Birmingham, Mobile and Montgomery — to obtain abortions, because clinics in those areas do not meet the standards set out in the law and could be forced to close or acquire new doctors. “The resulting unavailability of abortion in these three cities would impose significant obstacles, burdens, and costs for women across Alabama,” he wrote in his opinion. However, Gov. Bentley said that the law exists to protect women’s health as well as the unborn. “Abortion is a fundamental assault on the sanctity of innocent human life,” he said, adding that he “will always fight for the rights of the unborn, and support an appeal of today’s decision.” According to the Montgomery Advisor, emergency room doctor Dr. James Anderson had testified before the district court that it “would benefit women to have abortion doctors with admitting privileges at a local hospital.” “When starting off brand new with a patient, you have to be like a detective,” he said, explaining that patients do not always reveal if they have had an abortion procedure in emergency situations, and that additional information from abortion providers helps ensure that the doctor is not “starting in the dark” in such cases. Laws similar to Alabama’s have been implemented in Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Utah, while they have been blocked in Kansas and Wisconsin. The Alabama case was brought by Planned Parenthood Southeast and abortion clinics in Birmingham and Mobile, saying that the clinics in Birmingham, Mobile and Montgomery would close if the law were to be enacted. Currently, these clinics use doctors from Nigeria, Chicago and Georgia, and cannot meet the residency requirements and other rules necessary to gain admitting privileges in those cities. Two clinics in Tuscaloosa and Huntsville have local doctors with local hospital admitting privileges. Thompson, in his opinion, paralleled a right to procure and abortion with the right to bear arms, and wrote that were the state to “implement a new restriction on who may sell firearms and ammunition” such that “only two vendors in the State of Alabama were capable of complying with the restriction,” then “the defenders of this law would be called upon to do a heck of a lot of explaining — and rightly so in the face of an effect so severe.” Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said that he would appeal Thompson’s decision.
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