Alabama District Court Judge Grants Preliminary Injunction, Halts Enforcement of Alabama Abortion Ban

On Tuesday, October 29, 2019, Judge Myron H. Thompson of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama granted a preliminary injunction in Robinson et al v. Marshall, a lawsuit challenging Alabama Act No. 2019-189. The statute imposes criminal liability on abortion providers for almost all abortions, whether completed or attempted, regardless of fetal viability. The preliminary injunction prevents enforcement of the statute only as applied to pre-viability abortions. The statute is set to go into effect on November 15, 2019.

In ruling on the preliminary injunction, Judge Thompson noted that defendant State Attorney General Steven Marshall made multiple concessions as to the plaintiffs’ arguments. Specifically, the defendant conceded on every element required to grant a preliminary injunction. On the other hand, although the plaintiffs are challenging the entire statute in the lawsuit, the plaintiffs conceded that the injunction should apply only as to the statute’s enforcement of pre-viability abortions in order to “preserve the status quo and prevent irreparable harm.”

State Senator Clyde Chambliss derided the ruling, stating that “[t]his is judicial activism, pure and simple.” However, State Attorney General Steven Marshall said, “As we have stated before, the state’s objective is to advance our case to the U.S. Supreme Court.” When signing the bill into law, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey described the statute as “a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God.”

Federal judges have blocked “heartbeat bill” abortion bans in Ohio, Missouri, Kentucky, Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana. Utah and Arkansas have approved 18-week bans on abortions.

Additional Reading

Alabama Abortion Ban Is Temporarily Blocked by a Federal Judge, The New York Times (October 29, 2019)

Opinion in Robinson et al v. Marshall, No. 2:2019cv00365 (M.D. Ala. 2019)