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May 16, 2019

Alabama makes performing an abortion a felony

Daily Briefing

    Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) on Wednesday signed into law a bill (HB 314) that makes it a felony for doctors to provide abortion care under almost any circumstances.

    Bill details

    The new law prohibits abortion at any point in pregnancy except in cases of ectopic pregnancy, when the fetus has a fatal anomaly or will be stillborn, or when remaining pregnant presents a major health risk to the woman. The law does not make exemptions for cases of rape or incest.

    Specifically, the law makes providing abortion care a Class A felony, punishable by life or 10 to 99 years in prison. The law makes attempting to provide abortion care a Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.  

    The bill will go into effect in six months. However, given that the bill conflicts with the Supreme Court precedent under Roe v. Wade, Ivey in a statement acknowledged the bill may not be enforceable.

    Legal implications

    The bill is designed in part to help set up a Supreme Court challenge to Roe. Ivey in a statement said, "The sponsors of this bill believe that it is time, once again, for the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit this important matter, and they believe this act may bring about the best opportunity for this to occur."

    Several states this year have passed laws that aim to challenge the court decision, the New York Times reports.

    Steven Aden, general counsel of Americans United for Life, said, "This has been the most active legislative year in recent memory."

    Abortion-rights supporters are planning to challenge the Alabama law—as well as others—in court.

    Carrie Flaxman, deputy director of public policy litigation and law at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said, "These bans are blatantly unconstitutional and we will use every tool at our disposal to challenge them."

    Planned Parenthood has not yet shared a timeline for its lawsuit over the Alabama measure, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.

    Randall Marshall, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, which plans to join Planned Parenthood in a lawsuit, said, "By signing this bill, the governor and her colleagues in the state legislature have decided to waste millions in Alabama taxpayer dollars in order to defend a bill that is simply a political effort to overturn 46 years of precedent that has followed the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision."

    Abortion clinics to remain open

    Meanwhile, the three abortion clinics in Alabama plan to remain open, the Washington Post's "PowerPost" reports. Dalton Johnson, owner of the Alabama's Women's Center, said, "We've been through this fight over and over again." He added, "Our main goal is to keep the women apprised that we will be challenging it in court" (Kelly, CNN, 5/16; Lyman, Montgomery Advertiser, 5/15; Tavernise, New York Times, 5/15; Terry Ellis, USA Today, 5/15; Chandler/Paterson, Associated Press, 5/16; Winfield Cuttingham, "PowerPost," Washington Post, 5/16; Ault, Medscape, 5/15; Theoharis,, accessed 5/16).

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