Judge Orders Alabama to Absorb Costs of State-Mandated, Ideological Materials on Abortion and Pregnancy
A federal judge has ordered the State of Alabama to pay for the production and distribution of materials that it requires all abortion providers to give to patients 24 hours before having an abortion. Ruling that it is a violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution for Alabama to charge clinics for booklets and video tapes the State requires them to distribute, Chief Judge M. Harold Albritton of the Middle District of Alabama struck down the financial provision of Alabama’s abortion waiting period law. The Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the provision on behalf of three Alabama health clinics, arguments for summary judgment were held on July 3, 2003.
“This is a true victory for doctors and women in Alabama,” said Linda Rosenthal, Staff Attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Requiring clinics to purchase materials from the State violates the First Amendment, particularly when the State’s materials are biased against abortion. If the State wants to require abortion providers to distribute its materials, it must bear the costs,” added Rosenthal.
The provision would have forced clinics to pay four dollars per booklet and 50 dollars for each video, which contain ideological and biased information. It is estimated that today’s ruling will save women and clinics more than $50,000 per year. This provision is part of Alabama’s abortion waiting period law, which requires physicians to distribute state-mandated information to patients 24 hours prior to performing a surgical or medical abortion. The state-mandated materials have been enjoined since September 2002 when Judge Albritton granted in part the plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction.
Waiting period laws are on the books in 26 states, but enforced in only 20. These laws serve no actual health purpose and are intended to discourage women from choosing abortion by requiring them to receive anti-abortion literature and by creating many obstacles, including increased expenses, travel difficulties and medical risks. These requirements are extremely burdensome for women living far from the nearest abortion provider. Women may have to take additional time off from work, arrange childcare, or even remain away from home overnight or pay for another round trip to the clinic.
Representing Plaintiffs in the case Summit Medical Center of AL, et al. v. Bob Riley, et al. are Linda Rosenthal and Angela Hooton of the Center for Reproductive Rights, as well as Wayne Sabel, of Sabel & Sabel in Montgomery, Alabama, and David Gespass, of Gespass & Johnson in Birmingham, Alabama.