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Ala. Judge overturns law requiring abortion docs to have admitting priveleges

A US District Court judge today overturned a controversial law that required Alabama abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.
A US District Court judge today overturned a controversial law that required Alabama abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson struck down an Alabama law passed in 2013 that requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. If put into place, the law would effectively shut down 3 of the state's 5 abortion clinics. In the wake of a similar decision made in Mississippi last week, Judge Thompson declared the law unconstitutional.

At first glance, the mandate that abortion clinic doctors have admitting privileges would seem fairly sensible. Pro-life proponents claim the law is in place to help protect women seeking to terminate a pregnancy. After all, if a woman seeks to terminate a pregnancy and something goes wrong, the attending physician should have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

Admitting privileges are basically a doctor's ability to admit patients to a local hospital. If a doctor at an abortion clinic is unable to admit patients then, should something go wrong with the procedure, the patient is relocated to a nearby hospital in an ambulance and, according to pro-lifers, "left to her own devices."

There are two big flaws in this logic. First, the assumption is made that hospitals are in the habit of kicking patients to the curb. That isn't true. In fact, federal law requires that hospitals admit and treat any genuinely ill patient who comes through their doors. Second, pro-lifers are indicating that the doctor who administered (and subsequently messed up) the abortion is the best guy to save his patient's life. Admittedly, there's no proof to indicate that's false, but if you got an operation from a doctor, and that doctor messed up to the point where you could be knocking on death's door, would you really want him or her leading the recovery efforts?

Of course, pro-lifers would paint a picture that's a little more bleak than this medically supervised outside chance. Actually, calling complications in an abortion procedure an "outside chance" actually understates the near impossibility of something going wrong during an abortion procedure. Let's put it in perspective. Dr. Douglas Laube, a board-certified OB-GYN for nearly 4 decades, offers the following statistics:

"The risk of death associated with childbirth is 14 times higher than that associated with abortion. The risk of death related to abortion overall is less than 0.7 deaths per 100,000 procedures. (As a point of comparison, Dr. Laube states that the risk of death from fatal anaphylactic shock following use of penicillin in the United States is 2.0 deaths per 100,000 uses.) Less than 0.3% of women experiencing a complication from an abortion require hospitalization."

In other words, the instances wherein a woman would need to be transported to a hospital following a botched abortion are extremely rare. However, since most abortion clinics in Alabama use traveling doctors who would not be eligible for admitting privileges (those are usually only granted to doctors on staff at a given hospital), those clinics who did not employ a full time time physician with admitting privileges would be forced to shut down. And that was the goal all along, according to Judge Thompson.

"The evidence compellingly demonstrates that the requirement would have the striking result of closing three of Alabama's five abortion clinics, clinics which perform only early abortions, long before viability."

Incidentally, according to, a fetus is "nonviable" when it cannot support itself outside its mother's womb. Functionally speaking, Alabama defines nonviable fetuses as those under 19 weeks of development or who might be facing a life-threatening illness (or pose a threat to the mother) anytime thereafter.

In his 172-page verdict, Judge Thompson explained the ruling by proposing a hypothetical. What would happen if new gun control laws were passed and, as a result, only two places in the entire state were allowed to sell guns? Would that not be a fundamental affront to personal freedom? According to Thompson, so long as the United States Supreme Court allows American women the choice to terminate their pregnancies, restricting that option serves only to deny them their constitutional rights.

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