A federal judge on Friday struck down an Alabama law that required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.
The ruling comes amid a wave of new abortion laws in states where conservatives are aiming to chip away at the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in Alabama issued the 53-page ruling, saying the provision in the state's so-called Women's Health and Safety Act would effectively close the only abortion clinics in Alabama's three largest cities: Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham.
"The staff-privileges requirement would make it impossible for a woman to obtain an abortion in much of the state," Thompson wrote. "It is certain that thousands of women per year - approximately 40 percent of those seeking abortions in the state - would be unduly burdened."
Representatives for the Alabama Attorney General's Office could not be immediately reached on Friday.
Susan Watson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, applauded Friday's order.
"This ruling protects Alabama women and ensures access to safe and legal abortion," she said in an interview. She added that similar laws being pushed in other states appeared to be a "a concerted effort nationwide," to scale back abortion rights.
A comparable provision to Alabama's was part of a law signed in Florida by Republican Governor Rick Scott on Friday, and the U.S. Supreme Court is considering a challenge to an abortion law in Texas, where several clinics have closed due to new restrictions.
(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)