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Federal judge criticizes Alabama AG for abortion threats, allows case to continue

Judge Myron Thompson’s ruling lambasted Marshall and his office for a lack of “common sense.”

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A federal court in Montgomery will allow a lawsuit to move forward that challenges Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s threats to prosecute anyone who assists women who travel out of state for abortions. 

U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson granted in part and dismissed in part a motion to dismiss filed by Marshall’s office, challenging a lawsuit filed by four plaintiffs, including the Yellowhammer Fund, The West Alabama Women’s Center and Huntsville Dr. Yashica Robinson. Those lawsuits took issue with threats made by Marshall – which his office later reasserted and defended in various court filings in the case – claiming that Marshall was violating the right to travel and freedom of speech. 

Thompson’s ruling, which allowed the case to move forward and gave strong indications for how the court would ultimately decide the case, lambasted Marshall and his office for a lack of “common sense” and noted that the case was not “especially difficult” to decide. 

“This case is simply about how a State may not prevent people within its borders from going to another State, and from assisting others in going to another State, to engage in lawful conduct there,” Thompson wrote in his opinion. “Alabama can no more restrict people from going to, say, California to engage in what is lawful there than California can restrict people from coming to Alabama to do what is lawful here. In this sense, the case is not an ‘especially difficult call.’”

Marshall’s threats of prosecution have always seemed farfetched, and few attorneys believed he would ever ultimately be successful in prosecuting such cases, but his threats had a desired effect on several women’s health advocate groups. Several paused or significantly scaled back programs that would assist women in going out of state for abortions, as they feared that Marshall might carry through with the threats and start arresting volunteers and workers. 

Marshall first indicated that his office was exploring the prosecutions during a presentation to the Federalist Society, and later in a radio interview a few weeks after the 2022 Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. 

In response to those threats, a representative from Yellowhammer Fund told APR that it was halting some programs and would be very selective in comments it made about its practices going forward.

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Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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