In temporarily blocking an Alabama law that restricted access to abortion, a federal judge said "the right to decide to have an abortion and the right to have and use firearms for self-defense" have a great deal in common.
Federal Judge Myron H. Thompson on Monday extended an earlier court order barring the state from enforcing a law, passed last year, that would have required doctors at abortion clinics in the state to have admission privileges at nearby hospitals.
The law "would have the striking result of closing three of Alabama's five abortion clinics," he said — in Birmingham, Mobile and Montgomery.
Referring to U.S. Supreme Court rulings that barred states from imposing an "undue burden" on a woman's right to abortion, Judge Thompson said, "If this requirement would not, in the face of all the evidence in the record, constitute an impermissible undue burden, then almost no regulation, short of those imposing an outright prohibition on abortion, would."
Luther Strange, Alabama's attorney general, said the state would fight the ruling. “I respectfully disagree with the court’s opinion and intend to appeal when the court ultimately enters a final judgment.”
Judge Thompson's 172-page opinion at one point compares the rights of abortion and gun ownership."Neither right can be fully exercised without the assistance of someone else," namely medical professionals and gun dealers. And for both rights, he said the Supreme Court has permitted some regulation as long as it does not "tread too heavily on the right."
And both are controversial. "There are many who believe, as a matter of law, that the Supreme Court's reasoning in articulating the right was incorrect and who also believe, as a matter of strong moral or ethical convictions, that the activity deserves no constitutional protection."
Courts in Kansas, Mississippi and Wisconsin have blocked similar laws requiring hospital privileges.
But federal courts in Texas upheld that state's version of the law. The entire Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is taking up the case this week.
Admission privilege laws are also in effect in Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee and Utah.
First published August 4 2014, 12:34 PM