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Opinion | AG Marshall: A threat to women’s rights and the rule of law

Marshall wants to charge people with “criminal conspiracy” just for providing a ride across state lines for abortion access.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall with Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., left, and Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y.,right, speaks at a press conference across the street from the Manhattan criminal court, Monday, May 13, 2024, in New York. Trump was accompanied to court Monday by some of his top congressional surrogates, including U.S. Sens. Tommy Tuberville and JD Vance of Ohio. AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah
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In the latest episode of Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s crusade against women’s rights, he’s now pushing to criminally prosecute anyone who helps women travel out of state for an abortion. You heard that right—Marshall wants to charge people with “criminal conspiracy” just for providing a ride across state lines for abortion access.

Marshall is leaning on an Alabama law that says a “conspiracy formed in this state to do an act beyond the state, which, if done in this state, would be a criminal offense, is indictable and punishable in this state in all respects as if such conspiracy had been to do such act in this state.” In a 2023 filing, he argued that since elective abortion in Alabama is illegal, conspiring in Alabama to get an abortion elsewhere should also be illegal.

Let’s dissect that warped logic. If the state has such sweeping authority, what’s stopping Marshall from punishing anyone who helps someone travel to Tennessee to buy a lottery ticket or to Colorado to smoke weed? Picture the absurdity of Marshall arresting someone for going to Oregon for physician-assisted suicide or to California for surrogacy agreements. The potential for overreach is boundless. So, let’s get this straight: Will Attorney General Marshall actually have the audacity to arrest folks who dare cross state lines to attend a drag show in New Orleans, assuming our ever-so-enlightened legislature decides to ban them? Because, clearly, that’s a real threat to society, right? But here’s a juicier tidbit: what about the bigwigs at Alfa Insurance? They’re shipping off their top sales force to Vegas for a good old-fashioned gambling spree. Will Marshall be slapping the cuffs on them anytime soon? Or does the law selectively blink when the roulette wheels start spinning and the corporate dollars fly? The hypocrisy is almost too delicious. Almost. The sheer invasiveness of such a reality is a nightmare for personal freedoms and unbridled lunacy.

But let’s clear the smoke and reveal the real game here. Marshall’s goal isn’t to protect life; it’s to make a splash with Christian conservative voters, flaunting his “pro-life” badge by threatening to jail people who help women access legal abortions out of state. This is less about morality and more about political showmanship. Marshall is a political charlatan using the hot-button issue of abortion to boost his profile among Republican primary voters in his relentless quest for higher office.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson saw through this charade, writing in a recent preliminary ruling that “The right to interstate travel is one of our most fundamental constitutional rights.” He added, “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.”

The U.S. Supreme Court has long recognized a constitutional “right to travel from one state to another.” The application to abortion travel has become a hot issue since the Dobbs decision allowed states to impose strict abortion limits. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, in a concurring opinion in Dobbs, asserted that one state may not “bar a resident of that state from traveling to another state to obtain an abortion … based on the constitutional right to interstate travel.”

The core of the lawsuit against Marshall contends that his threats have specifically targeted organizations that provide funding and practical support for such travel. This lawsuit against Marshall underscores the essential role of organizations like Yellowhammer Fund in helping individuals exercise their rights, comparing their efforts to historical civil rights actions such as the Freedom Rides and The Green Book. The suit argues that the Attorney General’s threats violate Yellowhammer Fund’s and others’ constitutional rights to free expression, association, travel, and due process, and encroach on the sovereignty of states where abortion remains legal. The overturning of Roe v. Wade has resulted in an increase of people crossing state lines for abortions and subsequent threats of prosecution against patients, providers, and abortion funds involved in such travel.

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Steve Marshall’s threat to prosecute those assisting with out-of-state abortions isn’t just legally dubious—it’s a blatant misuse of power designed to intimidate and control. As he continues to posture as a defender of life, it’s vital to recognize his true motive: self-promotion at the expense of women’s rights and constitutional freedoms. Alabama deserves leaders who prioritize genuine legal and ethical principles over cynical political maneuvering. Marshall is a threat to women and the rule of law.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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