Judgment in Alabama abortion clinic suit likely to come next year

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson (Montgomery Advertiser, Amanda Sowards)

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson (Montgomery Advertiser, Amanda Sowards)

A lawsuit over a key provision of the state’s new abortion clinic could be resolved early next year, under a schedule agreed to by parties in the case.

Meeting with U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson Friday morning, plaintiffs and defendants agreed to a timetable that could allow Thompson to issue a summary judgment on the suit in February or March. If the judge declined to do so, a trial would take place in May or June.

“Our objective has always been to get this case resolved as soon as possible, so this gets us on track to get it resolved early next year,” said Andrew Brasher, Alabama Deputy Solicitor General, representing the state in the case.

Randall Marshall of the ACLU Foundation of Alabama, representing Montgomery-based Reproductive Health Services, which provides abortion services, said the plaintiffs looked to “streamline” the process.

Reproductive Health Services and Planned Parenthood, which operates clinics in Birmingham and Mobile, have sued to block a requirement in a law passed by the Alabama Legislature this spring that requires every physician at a clinic providing abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

Supporters of the law said the measure is aimed at protecting women’s health. The plaintiffs, citing the safety of abortion procedures, say it is medically unnecessary and would end up shutting down three of the state’s five abortion clinics, as the clinics would not meet the patient admission standards required to gain admitting privileges.

The plaintiffs agreed in the interest of time to limit discovery on the purpose of the law, which they argue was framed to block women’s access to abortion services. Pursuing that line of inquiry would require depositions from lawmakers, which could present a new set of legal challenges in the case. Thompson said at the conference he wanted to get the matter “resolved as early as possible” under the timetable established.

Marshall and the other plaintiffs said they would be able to argue their case on the law’s effects, which they said would limit Alabama women’s access to abortion services.

The agreement also includes language that would extend a temporary restraining order on the admitting privileges requirement to March 24, 2014.

– posted by Brian Lyman

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