Courts Reproductive Rights

Alabama’s Near-Total Abortion Ban is Temporarily Blocked by Federal Judge

A federal judge on Tuesday blocked a controversial Alabama abortion bill from taking effect next month, ensuring the procedure remains available and legal while it makes its way through the courts.

Judge Myron H. Thompson of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama issued a preliminary injunction on Tuesday barring the Human Life Protection Act from taking effect until it is fully resolved in court. The law was scheduled to go into effect next week on November 15th.

In ruling against the Alabama law — the most far-reaching anti-abortion measure passed by state lawmakers this year — Judge Thompson wrote that it violates Supreme Court precedent and “defies the United States Constitution.”

In the 17-page opinion, Thompson wrote that the state’s abortion ban “violates the right of an individual to privacy, to make choices central to personal dignity and autonomy.” Thompson also stated that the ban “diminishes the capacity of women to act in society, and to make reproductive decisions.”

Alabama was among several states to approve restrictive laws designed to provoke the legal battle over abortion rights, aiming to reach the United States Supreme Court and topple landmark cases Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion, and Casey v. Planned Parenthood, one of the key opinions that upheld Roe in 1992.

When she signed the bill into law in May, Alabama’s Republican governor, Kay Ivey, conceded that the legislation was likely “unenforceable.” Still, she said it would prompt courts to “revisit this important matter.”

Supporters of the bill recognize Judge Thompson’s injunction as a necessary step to achieve their larger goal: “As we have stated before, the state’s objective is to advance our case to the U.S. Supreme Court,” Steve Marshall, Alabama’s attorney general, said in a statement. There, he said, the state would submit evidence that Roe and Casey v. Planned Parenthood were “wrongly decided and that the Constitution does not prohibit states from protecting unborn children from abortion.”

Opponents of the bill, however, hailed Tuesday’s ruling as a positive development as the case pushed ahead. It also came as a relief to women who believed that abortion had already been outlawed in their state.

“Today’s victory means people can still access the health care they need across Alabama — for now,” acting president of Planned Parenthood Alexis McGill Johnson said in a statement.

“Abortion remains legal in Alabama,” Randall Marshall, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, said in a statement following the ruling. “The state’s repeated attempts to push abortion out of reach by enacting unconstitutional laws restricting abortions have already cost taxpayers nearly $2.5 million. This ill-advised law will cost taxpayers more money.”

The bill would punish doctors who perform abortions with life in prison. The law only allows exceptions “to avoid a serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother,” for ectopic pregnancy and if the “unborn child has a lethal anomaly” — not for instances of rape or incest.

Sources: CNN 10/29/19; NYT 10/29/19


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