Federal Judge Temporarily Halts Alabama Law Banning Dismemberment Abortions

Photo Credit: Markus Knigge
Photo Credit: Markus Knigge

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A federal judge appointed to the bench by then-President Jimmy Carter has temporarily halted the enforcement of an Alabama law that bans dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortions, and prohibits abortion facilities from operating within 2,000 feet of an elementary or middle school.

As previously reportedS.B. 363 was signed into law in May by Gov. Robert Bentley, outlawing what is commonly known as “dismemberment abortions” in the state.

“[I]t shall be unlawful for any individual to purposely perform or attempt to perform a dismemberment abortion and thereby kill an unborn child unless necessary to prevent serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother,” the bill reads.

The legislation defines a dismemberment abortion as to “purposely to dismember a living unborn child and extract him or her one piece at a time from the uterus through use of clamps, grasping forceps, tongs, scissors, or similar instruments that, through the convergence of two rigid levers, slice, crush, or grasp, or any combination of the foregoing, a portion of the unborn child’s body to cut or rip it off.” D&E procedures are common in second trimester abortions.

However, the bill also notes that the prohibition does not ban other abortion methods, as it “does not include an abortion which uses suction to dismember the body of the developing unborn child by sucking fetal parts into a collection container.” Suction aspiration abortions are common in the first trimester.

 S.B. 205, which prohibits abortion facilities from operating within 2,000 feet of a school, was also signed into law following its passage.

“The Alabama Department of Public Health may not issue or renew a health center license to an abortion clinic
or reproductive health center that performs abortions and is located within 2,000 feet of a K-8 public school,” it simply reads.

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There are two abortion facilities near schools in Alabama: Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives in Huntsville and West Alabama Women’s Center Inc. The new law is expected to result in the closure of both locations.

AL.com reports that the facilities performed 72 percent of the state’s 8,080 abortions in 2014.

Therefore, abortionists Willie Parker and Yashica Robinson White, with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama (ACLU) filed suit to challenge the prohibitions, asserting that the laws are a burden on mothers.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson placed a halt on the law, which was set to take effect on Aug. 1, and set a hearing over the matter in October. Both sides agreed to the temporary restraining order in order to give the state more time to respond to the lawsuit.

”Politicians all across the United States are building walls to prevent women from having access to safe and legal abortion,” Susan Watson, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, remarked following the decision.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said that he looks forward to the battle.

“I intend to vigorously defend the constitutionality of these important laws in federal court at the October hearing,” he commented in a statement.

As previously reported, Thompson is known for ordering the removal of a Ten Commandments monument placed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore in 2003. He also made headlines last October when he ruled that officials must restore the state’s contract with Planned Parenthood because canceling it denied women their choice in reproductive services.

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