Federal judge temporarily blocks restrictive abortion law in Alabama
A federal judge has temporarily blocked the entry into force of the most restrictive abortion law passed in the United States this year in Alabama, the latest in a series of decisions ending the application of abortion bans endorsed by many conservative states.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson granted a preliminary injunction on Tuesday, stopping the state’s near-total abortion block from coming into effect in mid-November.
“The state’s goal is to advance our case in the United States Supreme Court, where we intend to present evidence that supports our argument that Roe and Casey were badly decided and that the Constitution does not prohibit states from protecting unborn children from abortion, ”Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement, referring to two landmark decisions supporting abortion rights.
the Alabama legislation, signed by Governor Kay Ivey in May, effectively bans abortion in the state and criminalizes doctors who perform the procedure at any time during a pregnancy, with a sentence of up to 99 years in prison. The law, unlike similar measures, does not include exceptions for rape or incest. The only exception allowed concerns pregnancies which present a serious risk to the health of women.
The law is one of many laws passed by state legislatures this year banning abortions after a certain number of weeks of pregnancy, in a direct challenge to the precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court. Most have been blocked in federal courts.
When Ms Ivey, a Republican, signed the bill, she said it might be unworkable but could pave the way for the high court to consider the matter.
Showing division on the issue across the country, a number of other states have passed legislation enrich protections against abortion.
In his order, Justice Thompson said the law violated Supreme Court precedent that determines the right to an abortion before the fetus reaches viability, a period ranging from 24 to 28 weeks gestation. The judge said the measure also violates the U.S. Constitution and would leave many patients in the state with no options.
“Enforcement of the ban would cause serious and irreparable harm, violating the right to privacy and preventing women from having abortions in Alabama,” said Justice Thompson, appointed in 1980 by former President Carter.
The preliminary injunction will remain in effect until further notice from the district court.
Lawmakers who passed the bill cited “the humanity of the unborn child”. But the the measure sparked anger clashes in the state Senate as lawmakers debated its stipulations earlier this year.
This year, nine states passed laws tightening the limits on when abortions can be performed, targeting the 1973 Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade, who established federal protection for abortion. If all the laws came into force, tens of thousands of abortions would likely be limited, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.
Citing previous Supreme Court rulings, federal justices also suspended the laws of Missouri, Arkansas, Utah, Kentucky, Ohio and Georgia this year.
Despite little success in court, similar legislation is being considered in other states. The South Carolina State Senate is weighing a bill that would ban the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy, while lawmakers in Pennsylvania introduced a new abortion law this month, although the governor has sworn to veto such legislation.
The Supreme Court, whose composition has changed in recent years with the addition of President Trump-appointed Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, will consider this year an abortion case from Louisiana which challenges state law requiring abortion service providers to have hospital admitting privileges.
In 2016, the court overturned parts of a similar Texas law this led to the closure of many abortion clinics in the state. If Louisiana law goes into effect, the restrictions will close at least two of the state’s three clinics.
Disputes over licensing have also affected abortion clinics in recent years. This week, a Missouri commissioner hears arguments from the last abortion clinic in the state and its health service on an operating license. Depending on the result, Missouri could become the first state in decades without an abortion clinic.
Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which filed a lawsuit in Alabama, applauded the decision, saying the legislation would have bulldozed access to abortion for nearly one million women of childbearing age in the state.
“This victory is essential for our patients and for health care providers like me,” said Yashica Robinson, medical director of the Alabama Women’s Center clinic and plaintiff in the case.
Write to Jennifer Calfas at [email protected]
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