Abortion providers sue Alabama to block prosecution over out-of-state travel

By Brendan Pierson

(Reuters) -Healthcare providers and an abortion rights group on Monday sued Alabama in an effort to block the state from criminally prosecuting people who help others travel out of state to get abortions.

In a lawsuit filed in Montgomery, Alabama federal court, the West Alabama Women’s Center, the Alabama Women’s Center and its medical director Yashica Robinson said any such prosecutions would violate a basic right to travel between states under the U.S. Constitution. The Yellowhammer Fund filed a separate, similar lawsuit.

Alabama in 2019 passed the Human Life Protection Act, a law banning nearly all abortions. The law took effect last year after the U.S. Supreme Court reversed its previous ruling in Roe v. Wade that had guaranteed abortion rights nationwide.

Before that ruling, the healthcare providers suing the state had provided abortions, and the Yellowhammer Fund had helped people raise money to obtain the procedure, according the lawsuits.

Both lawsuits cited remarks made by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall in an August 2022 radio interview that Alabamans who help others travel to states where abortion is legal in order to obtain them could be prosecuted as criminal accomplices.

The healthcare providers said the threat of prosecution prevents them from advising patients about where they could travel to get abortions, and the Yellowhammer Fund said it had been forced to shut down its abortion funding in Alabama.

“When we cannot share information with patients about all of their options during pregnancy, including those options that are legal and available outside Alabama, the physician-patient relationship is put in jeopardy and our patients are harmed,” Robin Marty, operations director at West Alabama Women’s Center, said in a statement.

“Attorney General Marshall will continue to vigorously enforce Alabama laws protecting unborn life which include the Human Life Protection Act,” Amanda Priest, a spokesperson for Marshall, said in an email. “That includes abortion providers conspiring to violate the Act.”

(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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