Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Alabama’s Restrictive Abortion Law

By Ayana Byrd Oct 30, 2019

Two weeks before it was due to go into effect, a restrictive abortion law in Alabama that would have made the procedure illegal from the moment of conception has been temporarily blocked by a federal judge.

In her decision, Judge Myron H. Thompson of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama said the law—which would make performing abortions a felony punishable by up to 99 years in prison for doctors—“defies” the Constitution. The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood Federation of America on behalf of Huntsville, Alabama, ob/gyn and abortion provider Dr. Yashica Robinson.

The ruling was not a surprise to many in the state who support the bill. When Governor Kay Ivey signed it into law in May she said that it was likely “unenforceable.” And the bill’s author, state representative Terri Collins, said from its inception that the bill was, reports The Washington Post, “intended to serve as a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that the Constitution protects the right, nationwide, to have an abortion. Collins earlier said she wanted the law to be strong enough to force federal court intervention—something she and others hope will lead to national restrictions on abortion.”

Alabama is not the only state hoping that the courts will be the road to overturning Roe. In 2019, there has been an upsurge in heartbeat bans and other restrictive measures in Republican-controlled state legislatures, as they seek to land a case before the current, conservative-majority Supreme Court in hopes of securing sharper limits, or even an outright ban, on the procedure. So far, these laws have been not been upheld in federal court.

Reports The New York Times:


Federal judges in six other states have blocked laws that would ban abortions after what becomes the fetus’ heartbeat can be detected from going into effect, and judges in two other states have temporarily blocked laws that would ban abortions after 18 weeks.

Yet in Alabama, Collins does not see this latest ruling as a setback. Instead, she told The Post, “Today’s ruling is both expected and welcomed. [It] is merely the first of many steps on that legal journey. 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.”

In response to the court decision, Randall Marshall, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, said in a statement: “Abortion remains legal in Alabama. The state’s repeated attempts to push abortion out of reach by enacting unconstitutional laws restricting abortions have already cost taxpayers nearly $2.5 million. This ill-advised law will cost taxpayers more money.”