Gov. Robert Bentley, 3 others dismissed from abortion clinic suit

Gov. Robert Bentley on February 21, 2013.  (Montgomery Advertiser, Mickey Welsh)

Gov. Robert Bentley on February 21, 2013. (Montgomery Advertiser, Mickey Welsh)

A federal judge Tuesday dismissed Gov. Robert Bentley from a lawsuit over a law imposing new requirements on state clinics offering abortion services.

The move from U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson was agreed to by all parties and came shortly after the heads of three state professional medical boards were dismissed as defendants in the suit, which seeks to overturn a requirement that every physician at a clinic performing abortions have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

Bentley signed the law, known as HB 57, in April and has repeatedly expressed support for it. But in a brief filed Thursday, attorneys for the governor argued that the clinics suing to block the law had failed to state a claim against the governor or show how Bentley could address their concerns.

“Governor Bentley has no role in setting the requirements for staff privileges at a hospital, in the enforcement of House Bill 57, or in or over the state entities responsible for enforcement of House Bill 57,” the brief said.

On Monday, Thompson dismissed Alabama Board of Nursing president Martha Lavender, Medical Licensure Commission chairman James West and Alabama Board of Medical Examiners chairman George Smith from the case.

The dismissals come with stipulations that neither Bentley nor the heads of the professional boards may attempt to enforce the admitting privileges requirement, which is subject to a temporary restraining order.

Attorney General Luther Strange remains a defendant in the suit, along with State Public Health Officer Don Williamson; Montgomery County District Attorney Ellen Brooks and the district attorneys for Jefferson and Mobile counties.

The suit was brought by Montgomery-based Reproductive Health Services and Planned Parenthood, which operates clinics in Birmingham and Mobile. The clinics argue that the admitting privileges requirement in the law is medically unnecessary, and will force them to shut down.

– posted by Brian Lyman

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