Black Doctor's Lawsuit Brings Alabama's Strict Abortion Ban to a Halt

The fight against Alabama’s restrictive abortion ban marked a small victory on Tuesday, October 29. A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking the abortion ban, which was set to go into effect on November 15.

The law, which was passed earlier this year, banned abortion at all stages of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest. In a preliminary injunction, Judge Myron H. Thompson of the US District Court for the Middle District of Alabama said that the ban went against past Supreme Court rulings, pointing to the high court’s ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 US 833.

“Alabama’s abortion ban contravenes clear Supreme Court precedent,” Thompson wrote in the preliminary injunction. The judge noted the ban “violates the right of an individual to privacy, to make ‘choices central to personal dignity and autonomy.’”

Thompson added: “It defies the United States Constitution.”

This wasn’t Thompson’s first foray into the abortion debate in Alabama. In 2014, the district judge struck down a provision of a state law that restricted abortions, CNN reported. Thompson took issue with the Women’s Health and Safety Act’s provision that required doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.

In his ruling at the time, Thompson wrote: “The court was struck by a parallel in some respects between the right of women to decide to terminate a pregnancy and the right of the individual to keep and bear firearms, including handguns, in her home for the purposes of self-defense.”

Tuesday’s preliminary injunction comes as a result of a lawsuit launched by abortion providers against the state law. In May, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood led a legal challenge against the law on behalf of Dr. Yashica Robinson, an Alabama obstetrician and gynecologist and fierce defender of abortion rights, and other abortion providers.

Now, Alabama’s ban will not go into effect in November and is barred from going into effect until litigation is resolved, Randall Marshall, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Alabama, told The North Star.

Marshall said that legally, the state has two options after the judge’s injunction. He told The North Star that the state can decide to appeal the injunction to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals or it can wait to litigate the case, and if it does not go its way, appeal the decision then.

The ACLU of Alabama executive director noted that the drafters of the law, the lawmakers who signed the bill into law and Alabama’s governor have all acknowledged that it cannot be enforced. Marshall said the abortion ban was “blatantly” unconstitutional, calling it a “monumental waste of resources and time.”

He added that proponents of the law want it to reach the Supreme Court, which they hope will overturn more than 40 years of rule of law.

Dr. Robinson, who has become the face of the lawsuit, has faced similar battles against Alabama and its quest to deny women the right to choose. In 2016, Robinson was profiled by Glamour magazine for her work at the Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives.

At the time of the profile, Robinson was facing a new law that banned abortion clinics from operating within 2,000 feet of a public school. The catch? The Alabama Women’s Center in Huntsville is located across the street from a magnet school.

The Alabama native, who became pregnant with her first child at the young age of 14, said at the time that if the clinic was forced to close, she’d consider offering abortions at her ob-gyn office. “It’s so important for women in this community to have a choice,” she told Glamour at the time.

Robinson celebrated Tuesday’s injunction, calling it “critical to our patients and to health care providers like myself.”

“The abortion care we provide is essential to health care, and these ruthless attacks from anti-abortion politicians have no place in Alabama,” Robinson said in a statement. “We will keep fighting to ensure that we can provide care that our patients need and to keep abortion accessible in our communities.”

Staci Fox, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast, added, “This is not only a victory for the people of Alabama— it’s a victory for the entire nation. We said it from the start: this ban is blatantly unconstitutional and we will fight it every step of the way.”

What can be done about this

Marshall told The North Star that it is crucial to continue to support the ACLU and Planned Parenthood as they continue to fight Alabama’s attempts to restrict or ban abortion in the state. He noted that the two organizations, which he called “the leaders in fighting abortion restrictions in Alabama,” have been in legal battles against the state “for the better part of a decade.”

You can pledge your support for the ACLU of Alabama here and Planned Parenthood here.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia, Australia and the Americas.