News Law and Policy

Pro-Choice Advocates Notch Win Against Alabama’s ‘Lawyers for Fetuses’ Law

Jessica Mason Pieklo

“By undermining their confidentiality, this law put teenagers participating in the judicial bypass process in real danger."

A federal court blocked an Alabama law designed to make it nearly impossible for minors in the state to access abortion care. 

Passed in 2014 by the state’s Republican-held legislature, the law modified Alabama’s process for minors seeking an abortion who sought a judicial bypass of the state’s parental consent law. The 2014 modification required the minor to go to court to request the bypass and allowed the court to appoint a guardian to legally represent the minor’s fetus in that process. The law permitted the district attorney and, in some circumstances, the minor’s parents, to cross examine the minor. It allowed any of these parties to disclose the minor’s pregnancy to others, including teachers, employers, and friends, if the district attorney or the minor’s parents call them to testify in court while the minor requested the bypass for abortion care.

The district attorney, guardian, or the minor’s parents could have appealed a bypass under the anti-choice law. Advocated argued this could potentially drag out the judicial bypass process for so long that the teen would no longer be able to get an abortion even if a bypass were ultimately granted.

Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and ACLU of Alabama challenged the law almost immediately, arguing it was unconstitutional. 

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“Existing restrictions already force teenagers seeking abortion care to face a series of daunting obstacles,” Andrew Beck, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement following the ruling. “This law added insult to injury by forcing them to stand trial for their health decisions.”

“By undermining their confidentiality, this law put teenagers participating in the judicial bypass process in real danger,” Beck continued. “It’s great when teens can turn to their parents if they have an unintended pregnancy. But that ideal is not always the reality. This law exposed teens to the risk of abuse or harm.”

The decision does not strike the judicial bypass law in its entirely, just the challenged provisions.

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