Planned Parenthood Southeast, Inc. v. Bentley

SUMMARY

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Alabama, and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America filed a lawsuit on behalf of Planned Parenthood Southeast and an abortion provider challenging the admitting privileges provision of HB 57, which requires every physician who performs an abortion at a clinic to have staff privileges at a local hospital. These types of admitting privileges laws are opposed by medical experts, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists because they are medically unjustified and will jeopardize women’s health by depriving them access to safe, high-quality health care. According to the ACLU, physicians at the Planned Parenthood clinics in Birmingham and Mobile and Reproductive Health Services in Montgomery are unable to obtain hospital staff privileges because of various factors, including the hospital’s opposition to abortion, requirements that the physicians live within a certain radius of the hospital, and requirements that the physicians admit between 12 and 48 patients a year.

The bill places an undue burden on Alabama women’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy, and violates abortion providers’ due process rights protected by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. HB 57 would force Alabama women in Montgomery, Birmingham, and all points south to travel at least 100 miles, and sometimes as far as 200 miles, before accessing care, thus making it impossible for some women to access abortion care. For other women, the additional travel required to the remaining licensed providers in Tuscaloosa or Huntsville would delay an abortion, driving up the cost and the risk related to the procedure.

The plaintiffs also allege that the staff privileges requirement in HB 57 unconstitutionally gives hospitals complete decision-making power over whether abortion providers in Alabama will be able to continue to be able to provide these services, or if they and their staff members will face significant civil and criminal penalties imposed by the law. (Source.)

HB 57 also includes a telemedicine abortion ban and an ambulatory surgical center requirement — those provisions are not being challenged.

STATUS

On June 28, 2013, a district court in Alabama blocked enforcement of the admitting privileges provision pending resolution of litigation. (See Planned Parenthood Southeast, Inc. v. Bentley, No. 2:13cv405-MHT, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 91045 (M.D. Ala., June 28, 2013).) Trial in the case began on May 19, 2014.

KEY DOCUMENTS