A federal district court this week blocked two abortion restrictions in Alabama that would have dramatically reduced abortion access in the state by closing clinics and limiting the procedures doctors are able to provide. The decision should send a message to politicians across the country that they should stop interfering with a woman’s right to have an abortion if she needs one.
The first law, SB 205, would have forced abortion clinics within 2,000 feet of a K-8 public school to close. It could have shuttered the only abortion clinics in Huntsville and Tuscaloosa, which provide over half of the abortions in the state.
Anti-abortion protestors lobbied the legislature to pass the law in order to shield students from the very disruption they create by protesting outside of clinics. In his decision to block the laws from taking effect, Judge Myron Thompson exposed the law’s true intentions, which is not to stop the disruption, but stop the provision of safe, accessible abortion..
“The law has essentially rewarded the protesters with the intended goal of their disruption: the harassing, and even closing, of the clinics,” Judge Thompson wrote. “The message of the law is arguably that the greater the disruption, the greater the likelihood that the State will react with laws to curb that disruption by placing additional restrictions on the clinics.”
The second law, SB 363, would have banned the standard medical procedure for providing abortions in the second trimester of pregnancy. Bans on abortion procedures similar to SB 363 have been challenged — and blocked from taking effect — in three other states: Kansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana.
Laws that attempt to block abortion access in Alabama are not new. In the past three years, the American Civil Liberties Union has challenged seven abortion restrictions in Alabama. When lawmakers pass such unconstitutional laws, it is the Alabama taxpayer who has to foot the bill.
In 2013, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood challenged a requirement that singled out abortion providers and required them to have staff privileges at a local hospital. After the Supreme Court struck down a similar provision in Texas, Alabama dropped its appeal of the court’s decision striking down the Alabama law. That lawsuit cost the state at least $1.7 million in legal costs.
In 2015, the state of Alabama attempted to prevent Planned Parenthood from participating in the Medicaid program. Again, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood sued, and the state reinstated Planned Parenthood in the Medicaid program and agreed to pay $50,000 in legal costs.
People and courts all over the country are sending a loud and clear message: Stop interfering with a woman’s personal decisions. The question now is this: Will politicians get the message?