Appeals court tosses AL law that banned abortion method

Published: Aug. 22, 2018 at 4:12 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 22, 2018 at 4:13 PM CDT
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ATLANTA (WSFA) - A federal court has struck down an Alabama law that banned doctors from performing a medical procedure used as a method to perform an abortion.

Wednesday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta deemed unconstitutional the state's law, known as the Alabama Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act.

The law was passed during the Bentley administration in 2016 and prevented doctors from using a medical procedure known as Dilation and Evacuation, or D&E, to perform abortions.

The law required clinics to hire a physician with hospital-admitting privileges to handle patient complaints and it was met with a lawsuit from the West Alabama Women's Center in Tuscaloosa, one of the state's busiest abortion providers. A district court judge ultimately issued a permanent injunction against enforcement of the law, which the state appealed to the 11th Circuit.

The 11th Circuit's ruling upheld a lower court's decision that the ban would cause the loss of abortion access after 15 weeks of pregnancy, violating the woman' constitutional right to an abortion.

The American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, sued the state saying the ban put at risk the health of women who are seeking an abortion.

"Today, the court told Alabama politicians they can't disregard a woman's health and decision-making in favor of their ideological agenda," said Randall Marshall, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama. "This ruling ensures that doctors can continue to use their best judgment to provide the care that is right for their patients."

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said he was disappointed and will consider appealing the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"I am disappointed that the 11th Circuit sided with the lower court in this case, but it is encouraging that the court recognized the State's important and legitimate interests in ending barbaric abortion procedures—in this case, procedures that literally tear apart babies living inside their mothers' wombs,"  Marshall said.

Gov. Kay Ivey, who signed the bill in 2016 when she was president of the Alabama Senate, used the ruling to push for approval of President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

"I am disappointed in the court's ruling today; however, we should not let this discourage our steadfast commitment to protect the lives of the unborn," Ivey said, "even if that means taking this case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ACLU said similar bans have been blocked in five other states (Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas) after court challenges and it's in the process of challenging one in Kentucky. But this is the first ruling by a federal court weighing the constitutionality of a ban on D&E procedures in abortion cases.

The entire court ruling can be read here.

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