Alabama Attorney General Tries to Delay Lawsuit Challenging Abortion Restrictions for Minors

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Alabama Attorney General Tries to Delay Lawsuit Challenging Abortion Restrictions for Minors

Jessica Mason Pieklo

Rather than respond to the merits of a lawsuit claiming the law is unconstitutional, attorneys for the State of Alabama claim they can't understand the allegations in the complaint.

Attorneys for the State of Alabama told a federal judge they need more information from the plaintiffs before they could respond to allegations that a state law designed to restrict abortions for minors is unconstitutional.

Alabama is one of 38 states that requires minors seeking abortions to either obtain their parents’ consent or go through “judicial bypass,” a process through which a minor must get a court order granting an abortion. Alabama anti-choice lawmakers in July radically amended this judicial bypass process to authorize the court in these proceedings to appoint a guardian for a minor’s fetus, and to allow the district attorney, and in some situations, the minor’s parents, to both cross-examine the minor and to oppose her request for an abortion.

Alabama lawmakers also amended the bypass process to allow any of these parties to disclose the minor’s pregnancy to other people in the minor’s life, including her teachers, her employers, and her friends, and to call them to testify in court.

Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the Alabama law in October on behalf of a Montgomery abortion clinic, arguing it is unconstitutional. Attorneys from Attorney General Luther Strange’s office this month filed a motion with the court claiming the plaintiffs’ 15-page complaint did not provide enough specifics as to how they planned to challenge the Alabama judicial bypass law.

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Attorneys for the state characterized the complaint as a “shot-gun pleading,” and have asked the court to order the plaintiffs to provide even more information before the state should be required to formally respond to the lawsuit. Rather than respond to the merits of plaintiffs’ allegations within the time allotted under federal court rules, attorneys for the Alabama filed a “Motion for More Definite Statement,” a procedural motion used by defendants when the factual and legal allegations in a lawsuit are “so vague or ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably prepare a response.”

The State of Alabama’s motion is “meritless” and  “unnecessarily delay getting to the legal issues that are squarely laid out in the complaint” and with the purpose of further delaying the court considering the plaintiffs’ pending motion to block the law, according to attorneys for the ACLU.

“Were there any real doubts about the nature of any claim—and Defendants have identified none beyond their disingenuous speculation that Plaintiffs’ equal protection claim might incorporate legal conclusions from other claims—the nature of Plaintiffs’ claims are spelled out in detail in the motion for preliminary injunctive relief,” the ACLU attorneys told their court in their response to the state’s request.

The federal court has not yet ruled on the state’s motion, and in the meantime, the judicial bypass law remains in effect.