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Unconstitutional: The One Word That Describes Alabama’s Attempts to Block Abortion Access Statewide

Woman holding "Abortion Access" poster at rally
Woman holding "Abortion Access" poster at rally
Andrew Beck,
Senior Staff Attorney, Reproductive Freedom Project,
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July 8, 2016

The Supreme Court’s decision last week in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt was a monumental victory for women.

For years, extremist politicians around the country have done everything in their power to block a woman from obtaining an abortion, passing law after law designed to close down clinics or to shame, humiliate, and put barriers in the way of a woman trying to access reproductive healthcare services — more than 300 abortion restrictions since 2010 alone.

Last week, the Supreme Court sent a loud and clear message: Stop playing politics with women’s healthcare. These unjustified obstacles to a woman’s ability to obtain a safe, legal abortion are not only unconstitutional but are harmful to women.

And with the papers we just filed in federal court, we are sending that same message to Alabama politicians who are trying yet again to make abortion access in the state all but vanish. As they’ve done for years, Alabama legislators are seeking to impose undue burdens on abortion rights similar to those that the Court found unconstitutional in Texas.

It all started late in the night on May 5, when Alabama politicians — on the very last day of the legislative session — passed not just one, but two of the most extreme and dangerous abortion restrictions enacted anywhere in the country this year.

One of the laws prohibits abortion clinics from being within 2,000 feet from any K-8 public school. This would close down two of the state’s five clinics — the only abortion clinics in Tuscaloosa and Huntsville.

In a state with just five abortion clinics to care for the thousands of women in need of abortion services each year, the forced closure of any clinic is harmful. But forcing the Tuscaloosa and Huntsville clinics to close would be particularly devastating to women in Alabama because these clinics are by far the busiest in the state, providing safe, compassionate care to well over half the women who seek abortions in Alabama.

And the politicians didn’t stop with this clinic closure law. That same night, they passed a second law that bans physicians from providing a safe and medically proven method of abortion — the most commonly used method of ending a pregnancy in the second trimester. If allowed to go into effect, this law would force a woman to travel to another state to get the healthcare she requires — or, more likely, prevent her from being able to obtain a safe, legal abortion at all.

Together, these laws would absolutely decimate abortion access in Alabama — exactly what the Supreme Court said Texas could not do. In the papers we just filed, we are asking the court to block these dangerous laws from ever going into effect.

Just like the Texas restrictions struck down by the Supreme Court, these Alabama laws would block abortion access. Just like the Texas restrictions, the Alabama laws would inflict tremendous harm on women in need of reproductive healthcare services in the state. And just like the Texas restrictions, these Alabama laws are unconstitutional.