Alabama Won’t Be Able to Charge Doctors Who Perform Abortions Anytime Soon

A federal judge has blocked Alabama’s uniquely restrictive abortion law from taking effect next month.
October 29, 2019, 5:49pm
A federal judge has blocked Alabama’s uniquely restrictive abortion law from taking effect next month.

A federal judge has blocked Alabama’s uniquely restrictive abortion law from taking effect next month, as planned.

Alabama’s ban, among several passed by Republican-controlled legislatures earlier this year, sparked widespread outrage as it allowed no exceptions for survivors of rape or incest and would’ve threatened doctors with up to 99 years in prison if they performed the procedure.

“With this federal court ruling, it's official: None of the state abortion bans passed earlier this year are in effect,” the American Civil Liberties Union said in a tweet celebrating the decision Tuesday. “Abortion remains legal in all 50 states.”

The ban, which passed in May, would’ve outlawed essentially any abortion in the state starting November 15. Unlike other state’s bans that came before it, Alabama’s law did not provide exceptions for survivors of rape or incest, and would’ve only permitted abortion in cases where a continued pregnancy posed a “serious health risk” to the mother.

The law was part of a wave of efforts designed to trigger a legal challenge that anti-abortion advocates hoped could rise to the Supreme Court to challenge Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 ruling to legalize abortion nationwide.

None of the restrictive abortion bans passed by several states this year are currently in effect, thanks to court challenges. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey even acknowledged the law likely wouldn’t be enforceable in her state after she signed it. Alabama’s ban will remain blocked until the “court resolves the case in full,” according to the preliminary injunction issued Tuesday by Judge Myron Thompson of the United States District Court in Middle Alabama.

Earlier this month, a federal judge also blocked Georgia’s abortion ban from taking effect in January 2020, since it would’ve outlawed the procedure as early as six weeks into a person’s pregnancy. That law, too, was an attempt at getting abortion before the high court, which now skews conservative thanks to the addition of Justice Brett Kavanaugh in October 2018. The court already agreed this year to hear an abortion case from Louisiana that challenges a law that requires abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

"While we are relieved to learn that abortion will remain legal in Alabama for the foreseeable future, this changes nothing when it comes to the crisis marginalized communities have faced and will continue to face when it comes to accessing a termination,” Amanda Reyes, executive director at the Alabama-based Yellowhammer Fund said in a statement. “Conservative lawmakers hope that the American public will forget about our state and those who remain unable to easily, quickly and affordably access safe abortion care even with the total abortion ban being put on hold.”

Cover: Protesters for women's rights march to the Alabama Capitol to protest a bill to ban abortion that passed last week , Sunday, May 19, 2019, in Montgomery, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)