Alabama's extreme abortion ban is medically unnecessary and politically motivated

Alabama's extreme abortion ban is medically unnecessary and politically motivated
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On Wednesday, Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed H.B. 314 — a near-total ban on abortion — into law. With her signature, Gov. Ivey made Alabama the fifth state — after Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia and Ohio — to ban abortion just this year.

Anti-abortion politicians in Alabama have been at this for a while. The legislature has been pushing abortion care further and further out of reach for decades with medically unnecessary and politically-motivated restrictions. Each of these restrictions were meant to make it harder or impossible to access abortion care by introducing barriers for patients, doctors, or clinics. Now, we are left with only less than five abortion clinics in the entire state of Alabama who have miraculously been able to withstand decades of political attacks.

This relentless assault reached a new level this week when these politicians banned abortion completely.

These abortion bans are brazenly unconstitutional and they know it. As Gov. Ivey herself admitted, the ban “may” be “unenforceable.” That “may” be the understatement of the year. But that is the whole point. The politicians pushing these laws are following the anti-abortion playbook, passing laws in the hopes that with two new Supreme Court justices appointed by President TrumpDonald TrumpOmar, Muslim Democrats decry Islamophobia amid death threats On The Money — Powell pivots as inflation rises Trump cheers CNN's Cuomo suspension MORE, the Supreme Court will dismantle 45 years of precedent and take the extraordinary step of explicitly eliminating a fundamental constitutional right.

My colleagues and I at the ACLU are hopeful that the courts will respect the precedent it established more than four decades ago. But it will be years before any of these cases make it to the Supreme Court, if at all, since the Court only takes a fraction of the cases presented to it each year.

But even if the Supreme Court never takes another abortion case, abortion care can be made just as inaccessible as if Roe were overturned. Alabama is only the latest and most explicit example of what’s been happening to abortion rights across the country for decades. For millions of people in this country — predominantly people of color, young people and those struggling financially — the promise of Roe is already little more than an illusion.

Abortion coverage bans mean that people struggling to make ends meet are denied coverage just because they’re poor. Laws that mandate forced waiting periods delay care and mean abortion is only available to people with transportation, child care, paid leave from work and someplace to stay near a clinic. Those are just a few examples of what’s already been happening for decades. Where’s the outcry over that?  

In the past 10 years, states have quietly passed more than 400 restrictions on access to abortion. There are currently 7 states with only a single abortion clinic left standing. Or, take Louisiana, where providers and the Center for Reproductive Rights are fighting a law that, if allowed to take effect, would prevent nearly all doctors in the state from providing abortions. A state doesn’t need to ban abortion in order to outlaw it.

Of course, the ACLU will file a lawsuit to block Alabama’s ban from ever taking effect — just like we have in Kentucky and Ohio and will also do in Georgia. But this fight didn’t start with Alabama (or Kentucky or Ohio or Georgia) and it probably won’t end there either. And while we will not back down and will not stop taking these states to court in order to keep clinic doors open and ensure abortion remains safe and legal, it is time to start demanding these politicians stop playing politics with our health and lives.

Instead, our elected representatives should be working towards creating a future that safeguards abortion care, upholds basic rights and justice and respects our decision-making. It’s time to speak up and show up to make sure abortion care with dignity and respect is available in our communities — and put an end to restrictions because of where we live or how much money we make.

ACLU is partnering with national and local groups to organize and mobilize ACLU’s over 3 million members and activists in all 50 states to take a variety of actions and stand in solidarity with those on the frontlines over the coming week.

And we’ll see Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, Georgia and any other state that threatens the right to abortion, in court.

Alexa Kolbi-Molinas is a senior staff attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.