What do the new abortion laws mean for Alabamians?
As the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday, the ability to receive an abortion in any state is no longer a right. Now, anyone seeking an abortion must wade through their state’s laws or travel to another one if their state no longer allows the procedure.
“Roe v. Wade said that abortion was a federal constitutional right protected by the U.S. Constitution,” said University of Alabama Associate Professor of Criminal Justice Allen Linken. “The opinion (Friday) Dobbs says that is no longer true, so it’s not that abortion is criminalized. It is not that abortion is illegal. It is just no longer protected by the federal constitutional right. It still can be protected by a state constitutional right. It can still be legislatively passed by the state, it can also be barred by the state, but no longer is it protected by the federal constitution.”
So what happens now? It depends on where you live.
While Alabama has not outright banned abortion, the legalities of getting one in the state have become much more complicated. Like the state’s other abortion providers, Tuscaloosa’s West Alabama Women’s Center stopped providing elective abortions on Friday and instead offered patients information on where they could go for a procedure out of state.
In 2019, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law a bill outlawing abortions in the state unless the life of the pregnant person is in danger or there is a lethal birth anomaly. That law was held up in the courts for several years but is now in effect. There are no exceptions for rape or incest.
Many Mississippi residents seeking an abortion traveled to the West Alabama Women’s Center because that state’s lone clinic was in Jackson. For many Mississippi residents, Tuscaloosa was a quicker drive. Jackson is three hours from Tuscaloosa.
Currently, Alabamians seeking an elective abortion procedure would have to travel to Florida or Georgia.
“It varies state by state,” Linken said. ” Mississippi is 15 weeks. Some states are immediately terminating it. Some states will hear matters or issues in the next coming weeks and potentially change the law based on this opinion.”
Organizations including reproductive justice agency the Yellowhammer Fund said this is a sad day for women everywhere.
“In a way, so many people have already been living without access to abortion,” said Yellowhammer Fund Family Justice Organizer Jenice Fountain. “This just means it is even worse because there are a lot of people who still couldn’t get an abortion, but now it’s quite literally a death threat. Especially for our Black and brown women, who are already three times as likely to die in childbirth.”
According to the Pew Research Center, 61% of Americans believe abortions should be available all or some of the time, while 37% say it should be illegal all or most of the time.
Meanwhile, the West Alabama Women’s Clinic is planning on changing its focus toward preventative health care including offering contraceptives and gender-affirming reproductive health services.