MONTGOMERY, Ala. - The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals today affirmed a district court decision that an Alabama law, which would have put a minor seeking abortion on trial, is unconstitutional.

Under Alabama law, minors must have parental consent for an abortion, but they can apply for judicial bypass if necessary. The law at issue in this case would have transformed Alabama’s judicial bypass process into an intimidating and burdensome trial in which the minor could be cross-examined by a district attorney and a lawyer appointed to represent the embryo or fetus. These oppressive provisions go far beyond any other parental consent law in the country, and would fall most heavily on minors who are at risk for abuse and cannot safely obtain a parent’s consent.

“We are thrilled that the Eleventh Circuit’s ruling ensures that this outrageous law will stay off the books,” said Andrew Beck, senior staff attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “This law, which would have put a young person on trial for seeking an abortion, shows just how far anti-abortion politicians are willing to go to stand in the way of abortion access. Today’s ruling is key to protecting young people’s access to abortion in Alabama.” 

The court recognized that putting young people on trial for seeking an abortion, where they would be subject to cross-examination by a district attorney and a lawyer representing the fetus, can “create fear and anxiety for a minor,” resulting in “trauma.” As a result, “the Act constitutes an undue burden because it places a substantial obstacle on a large fraction of unemancipated minors who seek to obtain a court order authorizing an abortion without the consent of their parent or guardian.”

This is just one of several laws the ACLU has successfully challenged in the state in recent years, each of which would have eroded or eliminated abortion access. Alabama politicians, like their counterparts across the country, have targeted abortion access with unconstitutional abortion bans and laws that would have forced clinics across the state to close.

“Most young people who need an abortion turn to their parents, but unfortunately we know that some can’t do so safely,” Tish Gotell Faulks, ACLU of Alabama legal director. “Those that can’t must have an alternative that enables them to get the care they need without subjecting them to cross-examination by a district attorney and jeopardizing their confidentiality. We are pleased that as a result of today’s decision that daunting prospect is off the table.” 

More on the case can be found here: https://www.aclu.org/press-releases/aclu-asks-court-suspend-alabama-law-puts-minors-seeking-abortion-trial