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West Alabama Women’s Center, et al. v. Marshall, et al.

Location: Alabama
Status: Ongoing
Last Update: May 6, 2024

What's at Stake

A group of health care providers filed a lawsuit in federal court to prevent Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and district attorneys throughout the state from prosecuting those who assist Alabamians seeking to travel across state lines to access abortion care where abortion is legal. Attorney General Marshall has explicitly threatened that health care providers could face felony charges for assisting Alabamians seeking to travel out of state to obtain abortion where it is legal.

As a result, health care providers who filed the lawsuit have been forced to stop providing critical information, counseling, as well as practical support to Alabamians who seek to exercise their constitutional right to cross state lines and obtain medical care that is legal in states outside of Alabama. The threatened prosecutions would blatantly violate numerous fundamental constitutional rights, such as the rights to free speech, due process, and to travel freely across state lines.

Despite the attorney general’s attempt to dismiss the case, the court ruled in May 2024 to allow the health care providers to continue their lawsuit.

In states where abortion bans are in effect, the ability of local health care providers to share information and recommendations for specific, trusted out-of-state abortion care providers, as well as information about where people can obtain financial and practical support resources to access out-of-state abortion care, is essential for helping patients to obtain a full range of vital care, and is a lifeline for patients who need abortion care.

Absent a court decision preventing the attorney general and Alabama district attorneys from carrying out threats to criminalize such speech and assistance, more pregnant people will struggle to find out-of-state care, and the financial and logistical support they need to obtain such care without the expertise and insights of their chosen health care provider. As a result, many will be significantly delayed in accessing the abortion care they need, and some may even be forced to give birth against their will. This could have deadly consequences for Alabamians, who are residing in a state that has the third highest maternal mortality rate in the nation, and particularly for Black women, who make up a disproportionate share of maternal deaths due to systemic racism.

The lawsuit, West Alabama Women’s Center, et al. v. Marshall, et al., was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama in Montgomery by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Alabama on behalf of West Alabama Women’s Center, Dr. Yashica Robinson, and Alabama Women’s Center.

A similar case was filed in federal court by the Lawyering Project on behalf of the Yellowhammer Fund, an organization that has been unable to provide funding and practical support to pregnant Alabamians seeking out-of-state abortion care due to the threat of criminal prosecution. The cases have since been consolidated.

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