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Federal judge blocks Alabama's near-total abortion ban

Posted at 1:58 PM, Oct 29, 2019

A federal judge has blocked a controversial Alabama abortion bill that would block almost all abortions, calling it a "ban" that "contravenes clear Supreme Court precedent."

US District Judge Myron Thompson issued a preliminary injunction on Tuesday barring the Human Life Protection Act from taking effect until the court resolves the case in full. The law was slated to go into effect next month.

Thompson's decision to block the Alabama ban means that all of the state laws passed this year restricting early-stage abortions have been blocked from going into effect by the courts.

In the 17-page opinion, Thompson wrote that the state's abortion ban "violates the right of an individual to privacy, to make choices central to personal dignity and autonomy." Thompson also stated that the ban "diminishes the capacity of women to act in society, and to make reproductive decisions."

Thompson added, "It defies the United States Constitution."

That will be the question at the heart of the case if Thompson affirms his ruling and sets up a Supreme Court appeal -- a result Alabama officials said they were hoping for when they passed the law in the first place.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall called Thompson's ruling "not unexpected," pointing to the bill's aims of overturning the Supreme Court's landmark cases Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the US in 1973, and Casey v. Planned Parenthood, one of the key opinions that upheld Roe in 1992.

"As we have stated before, the State's objective is to advance our case to the US Supreme Court where 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 in a statement.

The bill, which Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law in May, would punish doctors who perform abortions with life in prison. The law only allows exceptions "to avoid a serious health risk to the unborn child's mother," for ectopic pregnancy and if the "unborn child has a lethal anomaly" -- not for instances of rape or incest.

"We must continue doing all we can to protect life. However, we also anticipated this challenge, and I support the rule of law," Ivey said in a statement Tuesday, highlighting the bill's "overwhelming support" when it passed the legislature.

The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Alabama and Planned Parenthood Federation filed their lawsuit shortly after the bill was signed on behalf of Alabama abortion providers challenging the law.

The groups cheered Tuesday's ruling.

"Today's victory means people can still access the health care they need across Alabama -- for now," Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement.

She said state legislators in Alabama and elsewhere were "putting people's health and lives at risk in their attempts to ban abortion outright in this country."