For the second time in days, a federal judge has ruled as unconstitutional state provisions requiring doctors who perform abortions at clinics to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.
The decision in Alabama by U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson follows a 2-1 decision from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on July 29, rejecting a similar provision in Mississippi.
Similar provisions have been adopted in at least 10 states, with court challenges following.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked efforts by Wisconsin’s Attorney General to reinstate a state law requiring that abortion providers have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
That provision was one of several restrictive measures hastily passed by the Wisconsin legislature in 2013. In the lawsuit that followed in federal court there, U.S. District Judge William Conley enjoined enforcement of the provision and the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.
As we’ve noted before, doctors have been among the most vocal critics of such provisions. As several contended in the Wisconsin case:
Doctors providing services submitted letters from hospitals rejecting their requests for admitting privileges mostly because they wouldn’t admit the number of patients required. Hospitals normally require physicians with admitting privileges to admit a certain number of patients each year and with complications of abortions being rare, those minimum admission rates would never be met by doctors performing abortion.
The law requiring hospital admitting privileges only applies to abortion providers. Those providing outpatient surgery, oral surgery, or other outpatient procedures are not required to have admitting privileges.
They’ve also argued that admitting privileges are not necessary, since patients in distress are sent to the emergency room, where they are treated by physicians there.
In North Carolina, an admitting privileges requirement was one of several abortion restrictions proposed early in the 2013 long session but dropped from the bill ultimately signed into law, pending the adoption of regulations by the Department of Health and Human Services. That process has since been stalled.