- Court strikes down provision requiring clinics to have hospital-admission privileges
- In ruling, federal judge who barred law last year likens abortion to 2nd Amendment
- Proponents said law protected women's health; detractors called it unnecessary
- Governor: "Abortion is a fundamental assault on the sanctity of innocent human life"
What if Alabama passed a law that shut down all but two of the state's guns-and-ammo stores?
"The defenders of this law would be called upon to do a heck of a lot of explaining -- and rightly so in the face of an effect so severe," U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson wrote this week in a 172-page majority opinion striking down a provision of state law restricting abortions.
The Women's Health and Safety Act of 2013 navigated the Alabama Legislature last year, garnering the governor's signature in April 2013, but Thompson quickly took issue with a provision requiring that doctors at abortion clinics have admitting privileges at local hospitals.
The state had argued the measure is designed to protect the health of a patient. The plaintiffs called it medically unnecessary due to the safety of abortion procedures and said the law would force three of the state's five clinics to shut down.
Days after federal judges blocked Wisconsin and North Dakota from enforcing new abortion laws, Thompson issued a July 2013 order temporarily barring Alabama from enforcing the provision that many observers considered the linchpin in the state law.
Revisiting the issue in the court's Monday ruling, Thompson said, "The court was struck by a parallel in some respects between the right of women to decide to terminate a pregnancy and the right of the individual to keep and bear firearms, including handguns, in her home for the purposes of self-defense."
Both rights are controversial, and there are opponents of each who, based on moral or ethical convictions, feel they should not be rights and deserve no constitutional protection. Each protected right is also held by the individual, but neither right can be realized "without the assistance of someone else," he wrote.
The right to bear arms means little if there is no one from whom to procure guns and ammunition, Thompson wrote. Likewise, the right to abortions is meaningless if there are no medical professionals to perform them.
"With this parallelism in mind, the court poses the hypothetical that suppose, for the public weal, the federal or state government were to implement a new restriction on who may sell firearms and ammunition and on the procedure they must employ in selling such goods and that, further, only two vendors in the State of Alabama were capable of complying with the restriction: one in Huntsville and one in Tuscaloosa," Thompson proposed.
The public and courts would demand that backers of the law explain themselves, the judge wrote.
"So long as the Supreme Court continues to recognize a constitutional right to choose to terminate a pregnancy, any regulation that would, in effect, restrict the exercise of that right to only Huntsville and Tuscaloosa should be subject to the same skepticism," he said.
Though Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Staci Fox insists that abortions are among the safest procedures for women, Gov. Robert Bentley issued a statement Monday saying the federal ruling will make abortions less safe.
"As a doctor, I firmly believe that medical procedures, including abortions, performed in Alabama should be done in the safest manner possible. This law ensures that if a complication arises there is continuity of treatment between doctor and patient. This ruling significantly diminishes those important protections.
The governor also intermingled his personal beliefs.
"We are extremely disappointed by today's ruling. Abortion is a fundamental assault on the sanctity of innocent human life, and I believe that it should only be done as a last possible effort to save the life of the mother. ... I will always fight for the rights of the unborn, and support an appeal of today's decision."