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August 04, 2014 3:54 PM Better News From Alabama and Mississippi

By Ed Kilgore

Since I’ve talked today about some bad old habits dying slowly if at all in parts of the Deep South, let’s mention some better developments, albeit ones that are aimed at thwarting the intentions of people like Mo Brooks and Chris McDaniel: federal judicial decisions halting (at least temporarily) state laws affecting abortion clinics. As always, MSNBC’s Irin Carmon has a quick and definitive take:

A law that would have closed three out of Alabama’s five abortion clinics is unconstitutional, ruled a federal court judge on Monday. The 2013 law, similar to legislation passed across the country, would have required abortion providers to seek admitting privileges at local hospitals.
Alabama’s attorney general said the state would appeal.

Of course it will.

In an encyclopedic 172-page decision that followed a three-week trial, Judge Myron H. Thompson wrote that the law violated the standard set by the Supreme Court mandating that states can not place an “undue burden” on woman seeking an abortion.
“The court is convinced that, if this requirement would not, in the face of all the evidence in the record, constitute an impermissible undue burden, then almost no regulation, short of those imposing an outright prohibition on abortion, would,” wrote Thompson….
Last week, a different panel for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals considered a similar law in Mississippi that would have closed that state’s last abortion clinic. That court narrowly ruled that the law was unconstitutional as applied to that clinic. A ruling is expected soon on an equivalent law in Wisconsin, where a trial took place in May. That state law has been temporarily blocked from taking effect.

Carmon notes that a different 5th Circuit panel allowed a similar Texas law to take effect, although its constitutionality remains under review. So the risk remains high that this whole subject will wind up in the hands of Justice Kennedy as the swing abortion vote of SCOTUS, which is perilous given Kennedy’s paternalistic views about “protecting” women’s health via restrictions on their reproductive rights.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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