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Abortion Provider Stumps AL District Attorney, Attorney Literally Bangs Head on Podium

Alabama spent a third day in federal court yesterday defending its ill-conceived TRAP anti-abortion bill passed in 2013.  The day didn't go well for the state, with the Montgomery Advertiser's Brian Lyman reporting that State Solicitor General Andrew Brasher "visibly and loudly bang[ed] his head on a podium in the courtroom."

The plaintiffs (Planned Parenthood and ACLU of Alabama) led off with an impeccable expert witness, Dr. Paul Fine, Medical Director of Planned Parenthood of the Gulf Coast. Dr. Fine's list of credentials is impressive:

  • Over 30 years' experience in OB/GYN & abortion care since the 70's and remembers pre-Roe days
  • An Air Force veteran who opened his Texas-based OB/GYN practice in 1977
  • Graduated from the Galveston Police Academy, and is to this day a reserve police officer
  • Taught the Galveston Police Department how to handle rape kits and how to work with victims of sexual assault
  • Teaches OB/GYN students and specializes in teaching abortion care at Baylor
  • And, he's currently Medical Director for Galveston EMS

Dr. Fine spent the day explaining that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures, with fewer complications than colonoscopiesor childbirth. 

He went on to say that 13-15% of pregnancies even end in spontaneous abortion/miscarriages and even those have a higher complication rate than medical or surgical abortion. 6 out of ONE MILLION women will die from abortion or abortion related services. Compare that to the 8.8 deaths per 100K for live childbirth.

The state's attorney challenged Dr. Fine about his opposition to requiring admitting privileges for clinic doctors, but Fine wiped the floor with him, saying among other things: 

  • ER doctors are trained to deal with miscarriages, which is the same treatment as an abortion complication
  • The ER doctor or OB/GYN on-call is the person who would admit the patient, whether it's an abortion or miscarriage
  • The safety of abortion is one reason hospitals won't give admitting privileges to clinic cotors. Hospitals require a certain number of admissions per year for a doctor to get privileges, but abortions aren't that dangerous, so no clinic doctors more often than not cannot qualify

In Texas, where the TRAP bill (which includes an admitting privilege requirement) has gone into effect, multiple clinics have closed. Women in the Rio Grande Valley are crossing into Mexico and buying potentially dangerous drugs on the black market that may not even be what's written on the label. 

Dr. Fine told Assistant Attorney General Jim Davis that Alabama's TRAP law "will only harm women by making more clinics close and putting women further away from the constitutional care they have every right to."

State lawyers pressed Dr. Fine on "continuity of care," but got nowhere. Fine noted that colonoscopies can go wrong and gastro doctors can't fix common complications like perforations themselves. They have to call in surgeons to fix them. 

The State even asked him if all doctors had cell phones. He glibly said "I don't know, do all lawyers have cell phones?"

After that, the State called its first witness, George Smith, chairman of the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners. Smith supports the state's assertion that patients can only receive adequate care if the clinic doctor is the person who admits them to the hospital. But:

Under cross-examination from Randall Marshall of ACLU Alabama, Smith said the board did not require physicians to obtain admitting privileges to provide services, and allowed doctors who lived outside the state to perform the procedures.

In fact, Alabama doesn't require any other doctor who performs in-office surgery to have hospital admitting privileges. The requirement very specifically targets clinic doctors, which is why this law is called "Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers."

Go to AL State Page
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