Alabama abortion ban blocked by federal judge

A federal judge in Alabama on Tuesday blocked a controversial near-total abortion ban that was set to go into effect next month, saying that it would "almost certainly be found unconstitutional."

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U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued a preliminary injunction blocking Alabama from enforcing the law, which would make performing an abortion a felony in almost all cases. The ruling came after abortion providers sued to block the law from taking effect Nov. 15.

"Alabama's abortion ban contravenes clear Supreme Court precedent," Thompson wrote in an opinion filed Tuesday in court. "It defies the United States Constitution."

The American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America filed suit to block Alabama's restrictive abortion ban in May, days after Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bill into law. It would have penalized doctors convicted of performing abortions with sentences of life or as many as 99 years in prison, with exceptions only in cases involving a serious health risk to the mother or in which the fetus was expected to die shortly after birth.

“Once again, the courts have affirmed that we have a right to access safe, legal abortion," Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement. "Politicians in Alabama, and across the country, are putting people’s health and lives at risk in their attempts to ban abortion outright in this country."

Women who receive abortions were not to be held criminally liable under the law, however, Thompson said, "Enforcement of the ban would yield serious and irreparable harm, violating the right to privacy and preventing women from obtaining abortions in Alabama."

Energized by new conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court, Alabama and other conservative states have attempted to enact new restrictions on abortion in the hopes of getting Supreme Court justices to reconsider Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

None of the state bans has taken effect. Some have already been blocked, and elsewhere courts are considering requests to put them on hold while legal challenges play out.

Supporters of the Alabama law have also said they anticipated the action, but hope to eventually convince the U.S. Supreme Court to roll back abortion rights.

"Our law was designed to overturn Roe v. Wade at the Supreme Court level, and today's ruling is merely the first of many steps on that legal journey," said Alabama Republican Rep. Terri Collins, who sponsored the ban. "I remain confident that our mission will be successful and appreciate the support of millions of citizens who support our effort to preserve unborn life."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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