Federal Judge Strikes Down Controversial Alabama Abortion Law That Put Pregnant Teens On Trial

A federal judge has put an end to a controversial Alabama abortion law that targeted minors seeking abortion. In effect, the law drafted in 2014 by Alabama legislators forced minor girls unable or unwilling to seek parental consent for abortion to go before a judge to seek permission instead. However, rather than simply granting permission for the abortion in question, judges in the state were empowered with the authority to appoint a guardian ad litem to the fetus and literally subject the pregnant minor in question to a trial.

The Alabama abortion law further enabled local district attorneys to call witnesses to determine whether or not pregnant minors are “mature enough” to choose to terminate unwanted pregnancies. During the ordeal, the guardian ad litem would argue “for the interests of the unborn child.”

On Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama scored a major victory when U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Russ Walker struck down the controversial Alabama abortion law. As CBS News reports, the judge wrote in her ruling that the abortion law is unconstitutional, imposing “an undue burden on a minor in Alabama who seeks an abortion through a judicial bypass.” Alabama, like all other states requiring pregnant minors to seek parental consent to obtain an abortion, legally require that those underage teen girls to have access to a “judicial bypass” procedure.

In short, a judicial bypass allows pregnant minors to obtain a necessary abortion without their parents’ consent by seeking and obtaining the consent of a judge. Legally, the bypass procedure must be “effective, confidential, and expeditious.”

According to Judge Susan Russ Walker, the controversial Alabama abortion law was in violation of the privacy of the state’s pregnant minors, as it allowed prosecutors to call witnesses against minor teen girls’ wills and without their consent.

The 2014 Alabama abortion law was unique in the United State in allowing for the fetus to be represented by a lawyer and state prosecutors to argue against pregnant minors’ right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

According to the State of Alabama, the controversial and now struck-down new 2014 abortion law allowed for a “meaningful” investigation into the maturity of any given pregnant minor seeking an abortion, while remaining a “confidential, and expeditious option for a teenager who seeks an abortion without parental consent.” According to the ACLU of Alabama, the abortion law had a sharply different impact on pregnant minors seeking abortions, even forcing girls to remain pregnant against their will if witnesses convinced the court that continuing to gestate would be “in her best interest.”

While it is unknown precisely how many pregnant Alabama teens have been subjected to the unconstitutional hearings since the 2014 abortion law went into effect, Judge Walker cited a recent high-profile Alabama case in an attempt to illustrate how the now defunct law was used to infringe on the Constitutional rights of Alabama minors.

In that case, an Alabama 12-year-old who had been impregnated by a relative sought an abortion under that state’s controversial abortion law. The unnamed 12-year-old, who had just finished 5th grade and was 13 weeks pregnant, had her abortion request approved by a qualified judge on June 27. That approval was immediately appealed by a district attorney who called into question the 12-year-old’s maturity to make such a choice.

On July 12, an Alabama appeals court ruled in favor of the pregnant pre-teen and her right to abort the incestuous pregnancy as she saw fit.

The ACLU also cited the 12-year-old’s case in praising the decision of U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Russ Walker, claiming that the controversial abortion law made the girl’s already terrible situation worse.

ACLU attorney Andrew Beck called Friday’s ruling against the controversial Alabama abortion law “a victory for women, for young people, and for reproductive health in Alabama.”

[Featured Image by Rena Schild/Shutterstock]