Politics

ACLU and Planned Parenthood sue to bar Alabama abortion law from taking effect

Key Points
  • The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood file a federal lawsuit seeking to prevent Alabama's recently passed abortion legislation — deemed the strictest in the nation — from ever being enforced.
  • The law makes providing an abortion at any stage during a pregnancy a felony punishable by up to 99 years in prison.
  • Gov. Kay Ivey signed the measure May 15, acknowledging at the time that it was illegal under federal law and likely unenforceable.
Pro-Choice protesters march through the streets of Birmingham, Alabama, during the March For Reproductive Freedom on May 19, 2019.
Seth Herald | AFP | Getty Images

The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit Friday seeking to prevent Alabama's recently passed abortion legislation — deemed the strictest in the nation — from ever being enforced.

"Alabama's state motto is audemus jura nostra defendere, which means 'we dare defend our rights.' That's exactly what we're doing here today," Staci Fox, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast, said in a statement.

The law makes providing an abortion at any stage during a pregnancy a felony punishable by up to 99 years in prison. It is aimed at doctors and others who perform abortion but not women who undergo the procedure. The has no exceptions for rape or incest victims but allows abortions when the woman's life is at risk. Gov. Kay Ivey signed the measure May 15, acknowledging at the time that it was illegal under federal law and likely unenforceable.

Ivey and the sponsors of the legislation hope to spur the Supreme Court to revisit the landmark abortion ruling Roe v. Wade, which held that women have a constitutional right to obtain an abortion early in a pregnancy. Other states, including Kentucky, Georgia, Ohio and Mississippi, also passed restrictive abortion regulations into law this year.

In the 39-page complaint, filed in the Middle District of Alabama on behalf of local abortion providers, the organizations allege that the ban will eliminate abortion in Alabama and that it will have a disproportionate impact on black and low-income residents.

"By prohibiting an individual from making the ultimate decision whether to terminate a pregnancy prior to viability, [the law] violates the rights to liberty and privacy secured to Plaintiffs' patients by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution," the complaint says.

The Alabama legislation is unlikely to make its way to the top court for at least two years as it makes its way through the lower courts, which are expected to reject it.

"Make no mistake: Abortion remains — and will remain — safe and legal in Alabama. With this lawsuit, we are seeking a court order to make sure this law never takes effect," Randall Marshall, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, said in a statement.