MONTGOMERY, Alabama — Lawyers for abortion providers have asked a federal judge to block new Alabama laws that ban abortion clinics near schools as well as the procedure most commonly used in the second trimester.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a request for a temporary restraining order before the laws go into effect Aug. 1. The group said the location restriction would close two of the state’s busiest abortion clinics, while the procedure ban would severely curtail second-trimester abortion access in Alabama.
“In recent years, the State of Alabama has engaged in relentless attacks on abortion rights, enacting a multitude of restrictions designed to shut down clinics and impose burdens on women seeking abortion services,” ACLU lawyers wrote in the July 6 request to block the law.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson held a Monday telephone conference on the request, but has not issued a ruling.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley in May signed into law a ban on abortion clinics within 2,000 feet of public K-8 schools. He also approved a ban of a common second-trimester abortion procedure known as dilation & evacuation, or D&E.
The location bill targeted the Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives in Huntsville. The clinic moved to a new location in 2013 in order to comply with a new state law requiring clinics to meet the same building code requirements as outpatient surgical centers. The new location is down the street from a K-8 magnet school.
The restriction could also affect a Tuscaloosa women’s clinic. The clinic is more than a mile’s drive to the nearest school. However, its property and the school’s campus back up to the same wooded area. According to Alabama Department of Public Health data, the Huntsville and Tuscaloosa clinics performed 5,833 abortions in 2014, 72 percent of all abortions in the state that year.
Legislation supporters said abortion clinics should not be close to schools.
Dilation & evacuation, or surgical abortions, are used in the majority of procedures in the second trimester, after 13 weeks of pregnancy, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. In the procedure, the cervix and the contents of the uterus are removed.
Alabama lawmakers who supported the bill called surgical abortion “barbaric” and likened it to medieval forms of punishment. Legislation opponents called the bill an attempt to interfere with a woman’s medical decisions.
Similar procedure bans were enacted in Kansas and Oklahoma but those laws were temporarily blocked by the courts.