Alabama AG clarifies prosecution rules under abortion law

Published: Jan. 11, 2023 at 7:23 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 11, 2023 at 8:31 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall is speaking out after the Food and Drug Administration finalized a rule expanding the availability of abortion pills.

Under the new rule, the FDA now allows retail pharmacies and mail-order companies to offer the medication.

In abortion-banned states like Alabama, the impact of this new rule will be limited. However, it is a big move for states where abortion is legal, as it makes access to the drug mifepristone much easier and quicker. Until now, the drug could only be dispensed by a few mail-order pharmacies or specially certified doctors.

Now, chains like CVS and Walgreens plan to get certified to offer mifepristone to patients in states where abortion remains legal.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall strongly opposes the FDA’s new rule change, saying abortion medication “puts a woman at risk.”

“Not only is the FDA’s actions reckless here, but it’s directly in conflict with Alabama law,” Marshall said.

Marshall says there have been some misconceptions that women receiving abortions in Alabama can be prosecuted. Marshall clarified women cannot be prosecuted for taking an abortion pill. He explained that only those who provide the abortion could be prosecuted under state law. That does include providers who prescribe abortion pills.

“Again, not targeting the woman herself, but in fact, targeting those providers to induce the abortion,” Marshall said. “There is a very specific provision in the law the legislator passed just a few years ago that specifically exempts the woman from criminal prosecution. It does target those who are providers.”

He added that prosecution is also possible to those who aid and abet abortion. But again, the mother would not be.

Marshall says Alabama has a separate law involving the exposure of a fetus to certain chemicals. He says if a fetus is harmed by taking other illegal drugs – like narcotics – the mother (in this case) can be prosecuted under the chemical-endangerment law.

“For example, ingesting methenamine could be something that’s actionable criminally, and in fact, those prosecutions have taken place in Alabama,” Marshall said. “By no means have we said we are using the FDA’s rule as a way of targeting women under that old statute.”

It’s still unclear how long it will be before pharmacies offer the abortion pill in states where abortion remains legal. Pharmacies must first be certified by one of the drug’s manufacturers to dispense it in accordance with federal safety rules. All patients in legal states still need a prescription to get mifepristone. It will not be available over the counter.

Governor Kay Ivey signed the Human Life Protection Act in 2019. A measure that makes performing an abortion a felony at any stage of pregnancy with almost no exceptions.

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