Alabama may not enforce its law to protect unborn babies from abortion, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
The Montgomery Advertiser reports U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson issued the preliminary injunction against the near-total abortion ban after abortion activists sued the state.
The Alabama law protects unborn babies from abortion in almost all circumstances. State House Bill 314 makes abortions a felony. Exceptions are allowed if the mother’s life is at risk. Mothers would not be punished for having an abortion under the legislation, but abortionists could face prison time for violations.
Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union sued to block the law just a few days after Gov. Kay Ivey signed it in May.
“Alabama’s abortion ban contravenes clear Supreme Court precedent. It violates the right of an individual to privacy, to make ‘choices central to personal dignity and autonomy,’” Thompson wrote in his decision. “It diminishes the capacity of women to act in society, and to make reproductive decisions. It defies the United States Constitution.”
Though disappointing, the ruling was not unexpected. State Rep. Terri Collins, who sponsored the pro-life legislation, said she hopes the law will prompt the U.S. Supreme Court to restore human rights to babies in the womb, the AP reports.
“Our law was designed to overturn Roe v. Wade at the Supreme Court level, and today’s ruling is merely the first of many steps on that legal journey,” Collins said. “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.”
The law was slated to go into effect Nov. 15.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has been defending the law in court. Earlier, he said the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee a “right” to abortion.
He said Planned Parenthood and the ACLU lack legal standing. He also argued that the U.S. Supreme Court was wrong about abortion in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and they “should be overruled.”
But abortion activists have slammed the law as an attempt to restrict women’s “right” to abortion.
“This law is blatantly unconstitutional, and the ACLU will not stand by while politicians emboldened by President [Donald] Trump’s anti-abortion agenda exploit our health and our lives for political gain,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, an attorney for the national ACLU.
The legal group argued that the law restricts a woman’s “right” to an abortion. According to the ACLU, it will “inflict immediate and irreparable harm” on patients by “forcing them to continue their pregnancies to term against their will,” AFP reports.
The groups involved in the lawsuit include the three abortion clinics in Alabama, Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and Yashica Robinson, an abortionist and OB-GYN.
Reacting to the ruling Tuesday, Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins said: “Once again, the abortion industry is using the judges in their pocket to usurp the will of the voters. People want a voice and a vote on the issue of abortion. … It’s undemocratic to block the efforts of people to take a stand in defense of preborn life.”
Ivey defended signing the pro-life law in the midst of harsh national criticism. She said it is time for the nation to reconsider Roe v. Wade.
“Many Americans, myself included, disagreed when Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973. 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,” Ivey said in a statement in May.
She noted that the legislation passed by an overwhelming majority in both state houses.
“The Legislature has spoken,” she said. “It underscores the sanctity of life the people of Alabama value so highly.”
The bill represents the views of Alabama voters. Last year, Alabamans approved a state constitutional amendment that says unborn babies have a right to life. According to figures from the Alabama Secretary of State, 55 percent of the voters were women.
However, the ACLU said the legal challenge could cost state taxpayers millions of dollars. The legal group cited another case where Alabama taxpayers were forced to pay Planned Parenthood and the ACLU $1.7 million after a court struck down another pro-life state law.
That is a concern for a number of pro-life leaders as well. Even some pro-life advocates express concerns about the strategy of such legislation, because when states lose these battles, taxpayers often are forced to pay pro-abortion groups’ legal fees.
The abortion industry has succeeded in overturning similar laws in court. There is more hope that the new conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court may consider an abortion ban, but it is difficult to say if it would for certain.