Court Issues Ruling in Abortion Prosecution Lawsuits

Court Issues Ruling in Abortion Prosecution Lawsuits

In the latest fallout from the US Supreme Court Dobbs decision, on Monday, May 6, 2024, Judge Myron Thompson of the US District Court for the Middle District of Alabama issued an order granting in part and denying in part Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s Motion to Dismiss two federal court actions alleging violations of the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs, their staff, and their clients. The suits were filed after Marshall publicly stated an intent to prosecute under a criminal conspiracy statute enacted in 1896 any individuals or entities who transport or otherwise provide aid to Alabama women seeking to obtain abortions in states where abortion is legal. Three separate plaintiffs brought suit in two cases, collectively alleging violations of the First Amendment, the right to travel between states, the jurisdictional authority of a state, the overbreadth doctrine, and the right to fair notice for due process.

The Attorney General’s Motion to Dismiss was primarily based on the argument that the plaintiffs in all three cases lacked standing to bring the actions themselves, and where applicable, lacked standing to bring actions on behalf of their staff or clients. The Court reserved judgment on whether the constitutional right to travel applied to the one non-individual plaintiff, but otherwise sided with the plaintiffs on the standing issue.

Of the constitutional claims presented, the Court granted the Motion to Dismiss as to two of them. One of the plaintiffs claimed that the interpretation of the state conspiracy statute on which the Attorney General relied for the authority to prosecute is unconstitutionally overbroad, but offered no facts in support of that assertion, and therefore, that claim was dismissed. Similarly, a plaintiff’s fair warning – violation of due process claim was dismissed as premature because there has not yet been a prosecution under the law. For all of the other pending constitutional claims, the Court either denied the Motion to Dismiss or reserved judgment, which served as a denial in effect. Because only two constitutional theories were dismissed, the claims are still pending in federal court, along with a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the Plaintiffs. Although the cases await final resolution, the Court’s partial denial of the Attorney General’s Motion to Dismiss and accompanying opinion dealt a substantial blow to the constitutionality of prosecution of individuals who aid others to get legal abortions outside of Alabama.

Posted in: Legal Watch

Leave a Comment (0) ↓