MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama's attorney general argued in a court filing that the state has the authority to bring conspiracy charges against groups who help women travel to another state for an abortion.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall's office made the assertion in a Monday motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by an abortion assistance fund and others arguing such prosecutions would be unconstitutional. The groups are seeking a legal ruling clarifying that Alabama can't prosecute people for providing financial, appointment or travel assistance for an Alabama woman to obtain an abortion in another state.
Alabama bans abortion at any stage of pregnancy. Marshall argued while it's legal for a woman to travel out of state for an abortion, he suggested groups that help her do so could face prosecution.
“An elective abortion performed in Alabama would be a criminal offense; thus, a conspiracy formed in the State to have that same act performed outside the State is illegal," the attorney general’s office wrote in the court filing.
His office wrote that the Alabama Legislature categorized abortion as among the highest wrongs, “comparing it to murder" and “Alabama can criminalize Alabama-based conspiracies to commit abortions elsewhere.”
Marshall has not prosecuted anyone for providing abortion assistance, but he has made statements saying that his office would “look at” groups that provide help. Those words have had a chilling effect on advocates, the groups said.
The Yellowhammer Fund, a group that provided financial assistance to low-income abortion patients, stopped the work because of the prosecution concerns.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs argued Marshall is illegally trying to extend Alabama's abortion ban outside its borders.
A federal judge has scheduled a Sept. 5 hearing in the case.