- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 13, 2016

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked enforcement of two new Alabama abortion restrictions that would ban clinics near schools and outlaw the most commonly used second trimester abortion procedure.

The laws were set to take effect Aug. 1. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued a temporarily restraining order to block the state from enforcing the provision until after an Oct. 4 hearing. Thompson said lawyers for the state of Alabama and abortion providers agreed to the enforcement delay as the litigation over the laws moves forward.

The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the laws, arguing the location restriction would close the state’s two busiest abortion clinics, while the procedure ban would block second-trimester abortion access.

“I’m delighted. I’m delighted for the women of Alabama,” said Susan Watson, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama. Watson said the restrictions would “prevent access to safe and legal abortion.” ”Politicians all across the United States are building walls to prevent women from having access to safe and legal abortion.”

The order blocking enforcement will stay in place for three weeks after the Oct. 4 hearing.

“I intend to vigorously defend the constitutionality of these important laws in federal court at the October hearing,” Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said in a statement.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley in May signed into law a ban on abortion clinics within 2,000 feet of public K-8 schools. He also approved a ban of a common second-trimester abortion procedure known as dilation & evacuation, or D&E.;

The location bill targeted the Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives in Huntsville. The clinic moved to a new location in 2013 in order to comply with a new state law requiring clinics to meet the same building code requirements as outpatient surgical centers. The new location is down the street from a K-8 magnet school.

The restriction could also affect a Tuscaloosa women’s clinic. While the clinic is more than a mile drive to the nearest school, the clinic’s property and the school’s campus back up to the same wooded area. According to Alabama Department of Public Health data, the Huntsville and Tuscaloosa clinics performed 5,833 abortions in 2014, 72 percent of all abortions in the state that year.

Legislation supporters argued abortion clinics should not be close to schools and compared the location restriction to reasonable zoning requirements.

Dilation & evacuation, or surgical abortions, are used in the majority of procedures in the second trimester, after 13 weeks of pregnancy, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. In the procedure, the contents of the uterus are removed with forceps.

Alabama lawmakers who supported the bill called surgical abortion “barbaric” and likened it to medieval forms of punishment. Dr. William Parker, a physician who provides second trimester abortions, wrote in a statement submitted to the court, that the law would prevent him from performing abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. He said the only alternative to D&E; is to induce labor in a hospital.

Similar procedure bans were enacted in Kansas and Oklahoma but those laws were temporarily blocked by the courts.


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