Federal Judge Blocks Alabama’s Near-Total Abortion Ban

(CN) – It was an order long expected by those on both sides of the abortion debate: With about two and a half weeks until an Alabama law criminalizing the procedure was set to take effect, a federal judge issued an injunction Tuesday blocking the state from enforcing the ban.

Women’s rights activists march to the Alabama Capitol in Montgomery on May 19, 2019, to protest a law that makes abortion a felony in nearly all cases with no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

According to Senior U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson’s 17-page order, Alabama conceded its law is currently unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled bans on abortions before a fetus or embryo is viable are forbidden.

“The court is persuaded that the plaintiffs are likely to succeed in showing that the Act violates an individual’s constitutional right to obtain a pre-viability abortion, and thus that it violates her constitutional rights. And the defendant agrees,” wrote Thompson, a Jimmy Carter appointee.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, a Republican, said in a statement that the judge’s order was not unexpected and the state’s goal is to bring the case to the Supreme Court in order to strike at the heart of the precedents establishing the right to abortion.

“We intend to submit evidence that supports our argument that Roe and Casey were wrongly decided and that the Constitution does not prohibit states from protecting unborn children from abortion,” Marshall said, referring to the landmark abortion cases Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

The Alabama law was set to go into effect Nov. 15. The abortion ban left no exception for instances of rape or incest – only in instances of severe health risks to the mother – and created criminal penalties including imprisonment between 10 and 99 years for doctors who performed abortions.

Even when Republican Governor Kay Ivey signed the bill into law in May, she said the law was probably unenforceable in the short term. State lawmakers intended to create a test case that would rise to the Supreme Court.

The injunction will keep in effect Alabama’s current abortion laws, which allow for an abortion up to 22 weeks after the woman’s last period.

“A preliminary injunction prohibiting enforcement of the Act will preserve the status quo, allowing the court to make a full ruling on the merits of the case without subjecting the plaintiffs, their patients, or the public to the ban’s potential impact,” Thompson wrote.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood Southeast is renovating its clinic in Mobile and is building a new clinic in Birmingham so it can move out of the location where it has operated in the city since 1930. Both projects began before the Legislature considered the bill to criminalize abortion.

Barbara Ann Luttrell, Planned Parenthood Southeast’s vice president of external affairs, expects the renovations will finish at the end of the year or in the beginning of 2020.

“They know as well as we do that this is blatantly unconstitutional,” Luttrell said in an interview about the case. “That’s their point. I’m not surprised that they sort of acquiesced with the need for a preliminary injunction because this law defies decades of Supreme Court precedent.”

Luttrell expects the suit to gather more intensity when a court date is set, probably in the next year.

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

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