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Federal judge blocks Alabama's near-total abortion ban

The law would have called for a sentence of 10 years to life in prison for the abortion provider with no exceptions for rape or incest.
Image: March for Reproductive Freedom in Montgomery
Demonstrators gather in front of the Alabama State Capitol to protest the state's abortion law, the Alabama Human Life Protection Act, in Montgomery, Alabama, on May 19, 2019.Michael Spooneybarger / Reuters file

A federal judge on Tuesday blocked Alabama's near-total abortion ban that would have made it illegal for a doctor to perform or attempt an abortion during any stage of pregnancy.

"We just blocked Alabama's abortion ban," the American Civil Liberties Union said in a tweet. "With this federal court ruling, it's official: None of the state abortion bans passed earlier this year are in effect. Abortion remains legal in all 50 states."

Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, signed the bill into law in May, and it was set to take effect on Nov. 15.

The near-total abortion ban bill was designed to challenge more than 40 years of federal abortion protections under Roe v. Wade.

The law, which would have made it a felony for a doctor to perform or attempt an abortion during any stage of pregnancy with no exceptions for rape or incest was the strictest of several anti-abortion measures enacted this year.

The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Alabama and Planned Parenthood Federation of America sued on behalf of Alabama abortion providers and their patients.

“Today’s decision recognizes this ban for what it is: a blatantly unconstitutional attack on the fundamental right to abortion. The Alabama ban, and the others like it, are the culmination of a nationwide strategy to push abortion out of reach," Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, senior staff attorney for the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said the judge's decision "was not unexpected," and fits with lawmakers' strategy to challenge legalized abortion.

"As we have stated before, the States objective is to advance our case to the U.S. 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.

Georgia, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Ohio and Utah also passed restrictive abortion bans as lawmakers in those states who are similarly looking to challenge Roe v. Wade tried to take advantage of having new conservatives on the Supreme Court.

"Politicians in Alabama, and across the country, are putting people’s health and lives at risk in their attempts to ban abortion outright in this country," Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. "Today’s victory means people can still access the health care they need across Alabama — for now. We will continue to fight to ensure that everyone can access health care — including safe, legal abortion.”