Legal challenge to Alabama's controversial abortion law filed
State's law is scheduled to go into effect in November, but a protracted court battle is possible
A federal lawsuit filed Friday asks a judge to block an Alabama law that would outlaw almost all abortions, the most far-reaching attempt by a conservative state to seek new restrictions on the procedure.
The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood filed the lawsuit on behalf of abortion providers seeking to overturn the Alabama law, which would make performing an abortion at any stage of pregnancy a felony punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison for the abortion provider. The only exception would be when a woman's health is at serious risk.
The law is set to take effect in November unless blocked by a judge.
"Make no mistake: Abortion remains, and will remain, safe and legal in Alabama. With this lawsuit, we are seeking a court order to make sure this law never takes effect," said Randall Marshall, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama.
The lawsuit says the Alabama law to criminalize abortion is clearly unconstitutional and would harm women by forcing them to continue pregnancies against their will.
- AnalysisU.S. anti-abortion activists once 'chipped away' at Roe vs. Wade — now they've picked up a sledgehammer
"For over 46 years — since the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade — U.S. law has recognized the fundamental constitutional right to make the profoundly important and personal decision whether or not to terminate a pregnancy," the lawsuit reads.
The plaintiffs are the three Alabama clinics that perform abortions, Planned Parenthood and Dr. Yashica Robinson, an obstetrician who also provides abortions at a Huntsville clinic.
Targeting Roe v. Wade
Emboldened by new conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court, Alabama is part of a wave of conservative states seeking to mount new legal challenges to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion across the country.
Governors in Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia have approved bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can happen as early as the sixth week of pregnancy.
None of the laws has taken effect and all are expected to be blocked by the courts as the legal challenges play out with an ultimate eye on the Supreme Court.
Missouri joined the list Friday, with Republican Gov. Mike Parson signing a bill that bans the procedure on or beyond eight weeks of pregnancy.
The legislation, which would go into effect on Aug. 28, includes an exception for medical emergencies, but not for cases of rape and incest. Doctors who violate the eight-week cutoff face five to 15 years in prison. Women won't be prosecuted for getting abortions.
The Alabama lawsuit notes that supporters of the law have acknowledged it is unconstitutional under current Supreme Court precedent.
For those keeping track at home:<br>Alabama: FILED ⚖️<br>Ohio: FILED ⚖️<br>Kentucky: BLOCKED ✅<br>Georgia: ON ITS WAY ✏️<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/StopTheBans?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#StopTheBans</a>—@ACLU
Supporters of the Alabama law have said they expected a lawsuit and to initially lose in court, but hope the appeal could eventually land before the U.S. Supreme Court.
"My goal with this bill, and I think all of our goals, is to have Roe v. Wade turned over and that decision ability sent back to the states," Republican Representative Terri Collins, the bill's sponsor, said when it passed last week.