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October 30, 2019

Federal judge blocks sweeping Alabama abortion law

Daily Briefing

    A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked an Alabama law that would make it a felony for doctors to provide abortion care under almost any circumstances.

    The decision comes amid a broader push among anti-abortion advocates to get the Supreme Court to rule on laws that restrict abortion care and overturn Roe v. Wade. The Supreme Court this month signaled that it might be willing to reexamine abortion rights by agreeing to hear a case involving Louisiana's restrictions on abortion, Politico reports.

    Case details

    The Alabama case centers on a new state law, which was scheduled to take effect Nov. 15. The law would prohibit 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 include any exemptions for cases of rape or incest.

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

    Gov. Kay Ivey (R) in a statement issued in May had acknowledged the law might not be enforceable under the precedent set by the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, but 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."

    The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Planned Parenthood, and other groups filed a lawsuit against Alabama seeking to overturn the law. The groups argue that the law violates Roe vs. Wade, which prohibits bans on abortions before fetal viability.

    Judge temporarily blocks Alabama law

    Judge Myron Thompson of the United States District Court in Middle Alabama on Monday issued a preliminary injunction blocking the law from being enforced until the lawsuit is resolved.

    Thompson in his decision wrote, "Alabama's abortion ban contravenes clear Supreme Court precedent" and "defies the United States Constitution."


    Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, an attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said, "Today's decision recognizes this ban for what it is: a blatantly unconstitutional attack on the fundamental right to abortion."

    Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood's acting president, said, "Today's victory means that people can still access the health care they need across Alabama—for now."

    State Rep. Terri Collins (R), who sponsored the bill, said, "Today's ruling is both expected and welcomed," and called the decision "merely the first of many steps on that legal journey." Collins added, "I remain confident that our mission will be successful and appreciate the support of millions of citizens who support our effort to preserve unborn life."

    Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R), who was defending the law, did not respond to a request for comment, Reuters reports (Allen, Reuters, 10/29; Ollstein, Politico, 10/29; Allassan, Axios, 10/29; Eunjung Cha/Wax-Thibodeaux, Washington Post, 10/29).

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