The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

July 19, 2013

Alabama abortion law enforcement to get delayed

— MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama's new law setting stricter requirements for abortion doctors won't be enforced this year.

Instead, a federal judge considering a legal challenge to the new law could rule during the 2014 election season when Republican legislators who passed the law and the Republican governor who signed it will be seeking re-election.

ACLU and Planned Parenthood attorneys challenging the law. State attorneys defending it told the judge Friday that they want the law kept on hold until March 24, 2014, while they develop their cases.

They said their timeline would resolve the case as quickly as possible. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson agreed extra time is needed and indicated he would go along with the timeline since it was endorsed by both sides.

"It's up to you all," Thompson told the lawyers during a hearing.

The suit challenges a portion of the new law that requires doctors at abortion clinics to have approval to admit patients to nearby hospitals. The law was supposed to take effect July 1, but the plaintiffs sued, saying it would close three of Alabama's five licensed abortion clinics because the doctors can't get those privileges.

The suit prompted Thompson to temporarily stop the law from taking effect. His order had been due to expire Aug. 15 until both sides sought more time.

The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the law in April, with most Republicans voting for it and most Democrats voting against it. Republican legislative leaders have repeatedly pointed to the law as one of their major accomplishments of the 2013 session.

Proponents say it will provide safer abortions for women, while opponents say it will make it harder for women to choose to have one.

The timeline laid out by both sides calls for the judge to get the final legal arguments on the effect of the law on Jan. 31, 2014. He could rule then or schedule a trial, which attorneys said could result in a ruling before the party primaries on June 3, 2014, and certainly before the general election on Nov. 4, 2014.

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