Roe vs. Wade challenge underway, Alabama likely to remain a battleground in abortion court fights

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments this week on a Mississippi law that would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.         

The general fetal viability standard line for abortions in the U.S. is currently is 22 to 24 weeks and abortion advocates contend the Mississippi law is an unconstitutional restriction of abortion rights.

But during oral arguments Wednesday several justices seemed to signal concerns about Roe vs. Wade, the seminal abortion rights case in the U.S. and Planned Parenthood vs. Casey in 1992, which upheld a woman’s right to seek an abortion but also opened the door for some state regulation.

Alabama has in recent years approved a constitutional amendment that declares there is no right to an abortion in Alabama and the Alabama Legislature approved a measure that would make performing an abortion a felony.  That law and clinic access laws in Alabama have been blocked or struck down by the federal courts citing the Roe and Casey decisions.

But, the landscape could be changing, given the case before the high court, said Kaitlin Welborn, ACLU of Alabama staff attorney for reproductive rights.

“It really depends on what the Supreme Court says,” Welborn told News 19. “If they leave more wiggle room to say there is some constitutional protection for abortion, that’s very different than if they say there is no constitutional protection for abortion. Regardless, in every single case, we’ll have to come back, both sides will come back and relitigate the issue and see whether the law is still valid under the U.S. Constitution or under many other laws.”

Alabama State. Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, sponsored the abortion felony bill. She wants to see Roe overturned and told News 19 she was encouraged by comments from Justice Brett Kavanaugh suggesting abortion laws should be handled by the states.

“Our bill was designed all along to have the Supreme Court revisit Roe vs. Wade,” Collins said. “The point of our bill is the child in the womb is a person. The Mississippi bill is focused on viability, but it might end up accomplishing the same purpose.

“I am hopeful and prayerful,” she added.

The ACLU’s Welborn said depending on the court’s opinion – expected to be issued in late June – both abortion advocates and opponents will be back in court. And, the arguments won’t necessarily hinge on the court’s holding in Roe that an American’s right to privacy assures the right to an abortion.

“We also at the ACLU and other organizations have theories about the constitutionality of abortion that are different than what was presented originally in Roe,” Welborn said. “So, we will be back in court no matter what, I think,  and we’ll continue fighting, but the other side will too.”

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