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The ACLU And Planned Parenthood Are Suing Alabama Over The State's New Abortion Law

The law's supporters have all but acknowledged that they’ll lose, but the goal is to force a Roe v. Wade showdown at the US Supreme Court.

Last updated on May 24, 2019, at 5:26 p.m. ET

Posted on May 24, 2019, at 10:06 a.m. ET

Gov. Kay Ivey / Twitter

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signs the state's new abortion law on May 15, 2019.

WASHINGTON – The ACLU and Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit Friday challenging Alabama's new abortion law, which, if it takes effect in November, would be the strictest abortion law in the nation.

Reproductive rights groups vowed to sue as soon as Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed the ban on May 15. The law makes it a felony for health providers in the state to perform, attempt to perform, or assist nearly all abortions. There are exceptions if the pregnant person's life is at "serious" risk, but the law imposes additional restrictions even in those circumstances.

Doctors who violate the law could face decades in prison, along with fines and the possibility of losing their medical license. The law doesn't subject people who obtain abortions to criminal prosecution but would make it all but impossible for them to have the procedure without traveling out of the state.

Given the precedent set by the US Supreme Court with Roe v. Wade in 1973, which established the constitutional right to abortion, the state is expected to lose in the lower courts. Ivey and other supporters of the law have made it clear that their goal is to get the case up to the Supreme Court and convince the justices to revisit Roe.

A spokesperson for the Alabama attorney general's office told BuzzFeed News in an email that they were reviewing the lawsuit and had no other comment.

Seth Herald / AFP / Getty Images

A protester outside the Alabama state capitol in May.

As in other lawsuits challenging restrictive abortion laws, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood are arguing that Alabama's law violates the right to liberty and privacy under the 14th Amendment.

"Absent an order from this Court, H.B. 314 is scheduled to take effect on November 15, 2019, at which point Plaintiffs will be forced to stop providing and/or referring for abortions," lawyers for the groups wrote in the lawsuit. "Enforcement of the Ban will thereby inflict immediate and irreparable harm on Plaintiffs' patients by violating their constitutional rights, threatening their health and well-being, and forcing them to continue their pregnancies to term against their will."

According to the lawsuit, there are three outpatient clinics in Alabama that provide abortions, and less than .001% of abortions in the state are performed at hospitals.

The Alabama law is the latest in a string of restrictive state abortion laws adopted in the past two years. Lawsuits challenging bans on abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected — usually around six weeks — are pending in Kentucky, Mississippi, and Ohio.


Updated with comment from the Alabama attorney general's office.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.