Abortion groups sue Alabama over statements regarding out-of-state abortions

UPDATE, 09/01/23: Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall responded to the Yellowhammer Fund’s lawsuit, saying groups which fund or arrange for out-of-state abortions are engaging in criminal conspiracy.

“If someone was promoting themselves out as a funder of abortions out of state, then that is potentially criminally actionable for us,” he said. “One of the things we will do in working with local prosecutors is making sure that we fully implement this law. There’s nothing about that law that restricts any individual from driving across state lines and seeking an abortion in another place. However, I would say that if an individual held themselves out as an entity or a group that is using funds that they are able to raise to facilitate those visits, then that’s something we’re going to look at closely.”

He further added, “The criminal conduct is the agreement (the conspiracy) itself, which is conduct that occurs in Alabama that Alabama has every right to prosecute. Thus, the legality of abortion in other States is irrelevant to whether Alabama can prosecute a conspiracy formed in Alabama.”

08/03/23: Two pro-abortion groups and an OB/GYN are suing Alabama after its attorney general made several statements indicating entities could face prosecution for helping residents obtain abortions across state lines.

They argue that the attorney general’s words violate their constitutional rights to free speech, due process, and the right to travel. Their arguments came as part of two lawsuits filed on Sunday. 

The Yellowhammer Fund, which filed one of the lawsuits, argued that, “Abortion funds do more than simply provide aid. They send a message of solidarity to those who are persecuted by the State of Alabama for seeking to control their reproductive health.” 

Executive Director Jenice Fountain added, “That message is both that our humanity and dignity are interconnected and that the State’s efforts to isolate and oppress pregnant people cannot break that bond. The attorney general objects to that message and has targeted us and those who wish to help pregnant people leave the state for lawful abortion care.”

Sunday’s other lawsuit was filed by Dr. Yashica Robinson and the West Alabama Women’s Center. Robinson was reportedly indicted for health care fraud in 2014.

According to estimates from the pro-abortion Society for Family Planning, Alabama saw fewer than 10 abortions beginning in July of 2022. It’s unclear how many women crossed state lines but the plaintiffs in both lawsuits have stopped providing certain services due to the attorney general’s words, the filings claim. Data from Texas has also indicated that pro-life laws do save substantial numbers of preborn lives even if women cross state lines.

Alabama has one of the most pro-life laws in the nation. Titled the Human Life Protection Act, the bill prohibits all abortions except those for life or health of the mother. The lawsuits note that shortly after the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs, Attorney General Steve Marshall told a radio program that entities could face prosecution for assisting out-of-state abortions. He seemed to reference Yellowhammer, noting “groups out of Tuscaloosa, for example.” 

The filings also quote an attorney who claimed Marshall gave a speech to the Federalist Society in which he said the state’s criminal conspiracy statute could apply to attempts to procure abortions out of state. 

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