Attempt by Alabama Attorney General Marshall to dismiss the case was rejected by a federal court

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A federal court in Alabama issued a ruling allowing Alabama health care providers to continue their lawsuit aimed at preventing Attorney General Steve Marshall and district attorneys throughout the state from prosecuting those who assist Alabamians seeking to travel across state lines to access legal abortion care. A group of health care providers filed a lawsuit last year after Attorney General Marshall explicitly threatened they could face felony charges for supporting patients in accessing legal out-of-state care. The attorney general’s attempt to get the case thrown out was rejected by the court today.

In the ruling, the court said: “This case is simply about how a State may not prevent people within its borders from going to another State, and from assisting others in going to another State, to engage in lawful conduct there. Alabama can no more restrict people from going to, say, California to engage in what is lawful there than California can restrict people from coming to Alabama to do what is lawful here. In this sense, the case is not an ‘especially difficult call.’ Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org., 597 U.S. 215, 346 (2022) (Kavanaugh, J., concurring). Therefore, the plaintiffs here correctly contend that the Attorney General cannot constitutionally prosecute people for acts taken within the State meant to facilitate lawful out of state conduct, including obtaining an abortion.”

Statement from Meagan Burrows, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project:

“Today, a federal district court rejected the Alabama attorney general’s attempt to dismiss our challenge to his threats to prosecute our clients for providing information and support to those seeking to travel out of state to access legal abortion. Today’s ruling sends a strong signal to anti-abortion politicians that their efforts to prevent pregnant people in states with bans from obtaining the help they need to access legal, out-of-state abortion care are blatantly unconstitutional. We are pleased that the case will proceed and we can continue fighting on behalf of our clients to put an end to the attorney general’s threats once and for all.”

Statement from Alison Mollman, legal director of the ACLU of Alabama:

“Since the fall of Roe, Attorney General Marshall’s threats have forced our clients to choose between their own liberty and freedom, and their ethical responsibility to fully inform pregnant patients of their healthcare options out of state. Today’s decision brings us one step closer to ensuring that healthcare providers can fulfill their ethical duties to their patients and to establishing that pregnant Alabamians can access comprehensive information about their legal healthcare options. We are proud to continue this important fight on behalf of our clients and their patients.”

In states where abortion bans are in effect, the ability of local health care providers to share information and recommendations for specific, trusted out-of-state abortion care providers, as well as information about where people can obtain financial and practical support resources to access out-of-state abortion care, is essential for helping patients to obtain a full range of vital care, and is a lifeline for patients who need abortion care.

If Attorney General Marshall can criminalize speech and assistance related to abortion, more pregnant people will struggle to find out-of-state care, and the financial and logistical support they need to obtain such care without the expertise and insights of their chosen health care provider. As a result, many will be significantly delayed in accessing the abortion care they need, and some may even be forced to give birth against their will. This could have deadly consequences for Alabamians, who are residing in a state that has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the nation, and particularly for Black women, who make up a disproportionate share of maternal deaths.

The lawsuit, West Alabama Women’s Center, et al. v. Marshall, et al., was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama in Montgomery by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Alabama on behalf of West Alabama Women’s Center, Dr. Yashica Robinson, and Alabama Women’s Center. A similar case was filed in federal court by the Lawyering Project on behalf of the Yellowhammer Fund. The cases have since been consolidated.