Days after federal agencies eased access to abortion pills, Alabama’s law enforcement chief said women who use abortion drugs can be prosecuted.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said the state could prosecute people who use abortion drugs not under the state’s anti-abortion law, but with an old “mise a child’s chemical hazard” originally designed to protect children from methamphetamine lab fumes.
The state’s Human Life Protection Act, enacted in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Roe vs. Wade and a constitutional right to abortion care, prohibits nearly all abortions and criminalizes providers. It explicitly exempts abortion patients from prosecution.
But Mr Marshall said the law did not grant patients a “blanket exemption” from prosecution for seeking abortion care.
“The Human Life Protection Act targets abortion providers, exempting women “on whom an abortion is performed or attempted” from liability under the law,” Marshall said in a statement. statement emailed to AL.com. “It does not provide a blanket exemption from all criminal laws, including the Chemical Hazards Act – which the Alabama Supreme Court has affirmed and reaffirmed protects unborn children.”
His statement follows federal regulatory changes for two drugs commonly prescribed for medical abortions. The Food and Drug Administration finalized rule changes earlier this month to allow retail and mail-order pharmacies to dispense mifepristone and misoprostol, two prescription-only drugs that are more than half used of all abortions in the United States.
The US Department of Justice also issued a notice that the US Postal Service can deliver abortion drugs to people in states that have banned or severely restricted access to abortion care.
Mifepristone and misoprostol are also commonly used to treat miscarriages and gastric ulcers, among other conditions. Mifepristone and misoprostol are the only medications recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to treat early pregnancy loss.
Last year, the FDA permanently lifted the in-person requirement for medical abortion prescriptions, allowing patients to access drugs through telehealth appointments and online pharmacies so patients can take the medicines at home.
But over the past year, anti-abortion state lawmakers have introduced more than 100 bills aimed at restricting the availability and distribution of abortion drugs, or have sought to ban them altogether.
A right-wing group at the heart of anti-abortion legislation and litigation across the United States – including the landmark Supreme Court case that overturned Roe vs. Wade – is also suing the FDA to rescind its approval of mifepristone.
Alabama’s chemical endangerment law only applies to “controlled substances” on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Scheduled Drug List, such as cannabis, methamphetamines, cocaine, and alcohol. heroin, among other illicit drugs. Mifepristone and misoprostol are not on this list.
The state has already enforced the law to prosecute pregnant women who allegedly used drugs, including prescription drugs, more than 1,000 times, according to AL.com.
“Elective abortion — including abortion pills — is illegal in Alabama. Nothing in the Justice Department guidelines changes that,” Marshall said in his statement. “Anyone remotely prescribing abortion pills in Alabama does so at his own risk: I will vigorously enforce Alabama law to protect unborn life.”
A statement from the West Alabama Women’s Center said the attorney general’s statement was intended to “deter pregnant women from seeking abortions, but the reality is that they will always seek them out – legal or not – because for some people, staying pregnant and giving birth is far scarier than a potential prison sentence.
“They’re still going to be out of state, they’re still going to be self-managing, and the only thing that will change is the likelihood that they’ll seek medical care if they have a problem,” the center said in a statement. “And that means we can’t be silent any longer.”
Emma Roth, Pregnancy Justice Advocate said enforcement of the law against people seeking abortion care “would be unprecedented” and “patently illegal”.
“When we say prosecutors have no shortage of laws to prosecute abortion, that’s exactly what we mean,” according to to the legal defense group.
“Medical decisions should remain the private choice between a patient and a doctor,” says a statement ACLU of Alabama Executive Director JaTaune Bosby Gilchrist. “Alabama AG has no jurisdiction to sue Alabamians for obtaining lawful and legitimate medical services prescribed outside of Alabama.”