Alabama lawsuit questions legality of state conspiracy statute

Published: Sep. 1, 2023 at 11:26 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A lawsuit filed against the state of Alabama is bringing attention to the constitutionality of the state’s conspiracy statute in relation to abortion rights. The lawsuit alleges that Attorney General Steve Marshall is violating the civil rights of individuals seeking abortions in states where the procedure remains legal, as well as those who assist them.

The legal action specifically claims that Alabama’s conspiracy statute infringes upon First Amendment rights, including free speech, expression, and association. Plaintiffs argue that the law curtails constitutionally protected activities, such as discussing abortion or providing financial assistance for out-of-state abortions.

Furthermore, the lawsuit argues that Alabama’s conspiracy statute violates the principle of non-extraterritoriality, as it allows the state to prosecute individuals for conduct that occurs outside of Alabama but is legal in the state where it takes place.

The state of Alabama, in defense of the statute, asserts that it is constitutional and does not infringe upon civil rights. Attorney General Marshall has requested the case’s dismissal, emphasizing that conspiring to obtain an abortion outside of Alabama while in the state is a crime, and he is committed to prosecuting such cases.

The lawsuit raises complex constitutional questions.

The case underscores the importance of determining whether Alabama’s conspiracy statute violates the civil rights of those involved and delves into intricate legal questions surrounding abortion rights, the Full Faith and Credit Clause, and constitutional protections. The court’s decision will have far-reaching implications for reproductive rights and interstate legal recognition, according to David Gespass, co-chair, of the National Lawyers Guild Alabama chapter.

“I think that we have a very slippery slope here,” Gespass said. “The question is in this case, is it absurd? And is it illogical to think that some future governor, or even the present governor would want to have a law that says people can’t do X, Y, or Z, and if they go somewhere else where they can do it, they can be prosecuted here when they come back? I think that’s something we should all, you know, at least reflect on and worry about,”

Gespass is not associated with the lawsuit.

“We don’t have a lottery now Alabama. If Alabama makes it unlawful to engage in a lottery or to participate in a lottery, one could argue that going to Florida, five miles from where I’m living could be a violation of law,” he added.

Gespass argues that the application of the Full Faith and Credit Clause in the U.S. Constitution may apply. This clause requires states to recognize the laws of other states but provides exceptions when a law contradicts a state’s public policy. In the context of abortion, it remains unclear whether the clause obliges states to recognize laws legalizing abortion.

Get news alerts in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store or subscribe to our email newsletter here.