Back in May, the state of Alabama signed into law The Alabama Human Life Protection Act, an anti-abortion bill so extreme even ultra-conservative Pat Robertson decried it. Under the bill, which was set to go into effect next month, doctors who perform abortions at any point of a pregnancy would be guilty of a felony and subject to the possibility of life in prison, except in cases where “necessary in order to prevent a serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother.” The bill makes no concessions for cases of rape or incest.
On Tuesday (Oct. 29), federal judge Myron Thompson blocked the bill, ruling that it “defies the United States Constitution.” Thompson’s ruling affirmed the stance of the three only abortion service-providing organizations across the state, which had sued the state’s attorney general on behalf of their patients. ”[B]anning abortion before viability violates state precedent,” stated Thompson, and it “would yield serious and irreparable harm.”
The block, however, is only temporary at this time: Thompson issued a preliminary injunction against the bill as court proceedings continue. Alabama’s Republicans seem entirely unconcerned about Thompson’s decision, with Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, for one, calling it “not unexpected.” After all, they have bigger plans: getting the matter before the majority-conservative Supreme Court, where it stands a chance of overturning Roe v. Wade. Marshall stated:
The district court’s decision to grant the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction of Alabama’s 2019 abortion law as to pre-viability abortions was not unexpected … As we have stated before, the State’s objective is to advance our case to the U.S. Supreme Court where we intend to submit evidence that supports our argument that Roe [v. Wade] and Casey were wrongly decided and that the Constitution does not prohibit states from protecting unborn children from abortion.
Marshall’s statement makes clearer than ever that the extremely restrictive legislation recently passed in Alabama and several other states (Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Ohio among them) poses a threat to the entire nation, even as it is unlikely to go into effect in these individual states. The executive director of Alabama’s Yellowhammer Fund, which works to help those in financial need pay for abortions, has also pointed out that the ruling, while welcome, “changes nothing when it comes to the crisis marginalized communities have faced and will continue to face when it comes to accessing a termination.” As much as Judge Thompson’s decision seems to give us occasion to breathe a sigh of relief, we would do well to remember the fight is far from over.