Alabama, a state that already has one of the nation’s strictest abortion laws, is potentially looking to prosecute people who help abortion seekers. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R), who’s been in office since 2017, recently confirmed that people who help Alabamians receive abortion care out of state could be charged under Alabama’s “accessory provisions” and “conspiracy provisions.”
Marshall’s comments came after a series of tweets from Alabama Democrats that discussed the state’s accessory laws and how that would apply to the new abortion ban. Chris England, former Alabama Democratic Party Chairman, tweeted: “Not only can anyone, even the woman seeking the abortion, be prosecuted, but also anyone can be prosecuted for conspiracy if they help someone either get or even plan to get an abortion in another state.”
Marshall then appeared on a radio show in August to confirm that yes, the law could absolutely be used to prosecute anyone helping someone get an abortion.
“If someone was promoting themselves out as a funder of abortions out of state, that is potentially criminally actionable for us,” Marshal said during the radio interview. “If there are groups promoting this as part of their services, we will be taking a look at that.”
The state’s current law, which is a total ban on abortion with the very confusing exception for the health of a patient but not for rape and incest survivors, currently does not keep patients from leaving the state for an abortion. Marshall admitted this was true. So instead, he’s looking at organizations that advertise funding for and help secure travel for abortion patients: “However, I would say that if an individual held themselves out as an entity or a group that is using funds that they are able to raise to facilitate those visits, then that’s something that we’re going to look at closely,” he said, according to the Alabama Political Reporter.
Marshall’s comments about what health clinics and abortion funds advertise are not only infuriating, they raise First Amendment concerns—can someone talk about abortion in Alabama? His repeated anti-abortion comments add to the confusing hoops abortion seekers in the South must now jump through, including expensive travel and long wait times at clinics.
Mia Raven is a Montgomery-based activist who operates the nonprofit POWER House, which houses an abortion clinic and pro-abortion group office. Attorneys have told her to not help patients going out of state. “I knew it was going to be horrific, but I didn’t expect that they’d also take my rights to free speech too,” Raven told Alabama Politics This Week podcast.
Meanwhile, Robin Marty, author of New Handbook for a Post-Roe America and the operations director for the West Alabama Women’s Center, decided to not say “a whole lot” about Marshall’s comments.
“I have no intention of abdicating my duty to enforce the Unborn Life Protection Act against any practitioner who unlawfully conducts abortions in the State of Alabama,” Marshall told one local right-leaning outlet earlier this month. “The power of states to protect unborn life is settled.”
Marshall is, of course, referring to the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade back in June. Since then, abortion has been banned or mostly banned in 15 states. Since the Supreme Court decision, though, Kansas voters decided to keep reproductive freedom alive in the state. (An anti-abortion activist paid for a recount in Kansas and the vote count for reproductive freedom went up by six votes, per Jezebel’s Kylie Cheung.) Seems like the “power of the states to protect unborn life” has not been settled.
So as his national counterparts attempt to ban abortion at 15 weeks at the federal level, Marshall seems content on continuing to intimidate activists, advocates, and patients alike. It’s a rough time to be an abortion seeker in the U.S.—especially in Alabama—and the state’s top prosecutor is intent on making things worse.