United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
YASHICA ROBINSON, M.D., et al., on behalf of themselves, their patients, physicians, clinic administrators, and staff, Plaintiffs,
STEVEN MARSHALL, in his official capacity as Alabama Attorney General, Defendant.
H. THOMPSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
lawsuit challenges a 2019 Alabama statute, Ala. Act No.
2019-189, that imposes criminal liability on abortion
providers for nearly all abortions, completed or attempted,
regardless of fetal viability. In essence, the Act imposes a
near-total ban on abortion. It is set to take effect on
November 15, 2019.
plaintiffs are providers of abortion services: Dr. Yashica
Robinson, M.D.; Alabama Women's Center; Planned
Parenthood Southeast, Inc.; Reproductive Health Services; and
West Alabama Women's Center. They sue on behalf of their
patients, claiming that the Act is unconstitutional under the
Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, as enforced
through 42 U.S.C. § 1983, because it violates their
patients' substantive-due-process rights to liberty and
privacy. They also sue on behalf of themselves. The defendant
is the State Attorney General, sued in his official capacity.
This court's jurisdiction is proper under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1331 (federal question) and 28 U.S.C. §
1343(a)(3) & (4) (civil rights).
case is now before the court on the plaintiffs' motion
for a preliminary injunction (doc. no. 50). For the reasons
detailed below, the motion will be granted with respect to
any and all applications of the Act to pre-viability
that a preliminary injunction is appropriate, the plaintiffs
must demonstrate that (1) there is a substantial likelihood
that they ultimately will prevail on the merits of the claim;
(2) they will suffer irreparable injury unless the injunction
issues; (3) the threatened injury to them outweighs whatever
damage the proposed injunction may cause the defendant; and
(4) the public interest will not be harmed if the injunction
should issue. See Cate v. Oldham, 707 F.2d 1176,
1185 (11th Cir. 1983). The plaintiffs bear the burden to make
each showing. See McDonald's Corp. v. Robertson,
147 F.3d 1301, 1306 (11th Cir. 1998).
in order to demonstrate a substantial likelihood of success
on the merits, the plaintiffs must show that the Act is
likely to violate the substantive-due-process rights of
individuals seeking abortions in Alabama. The Fourteenth
Amendment to the United States Constitution protects a
woman's right to terminate her pregnancy. “The
woman's right to terminate her pregnancy before
viability, ” the Supreme Court has stated, is “a
rule of law and a component of liberty we cannot
renounce.” Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa.
v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 871 (1992) (plurality opinion).
The Supreme Court “has determined and then redetermined
that the Constitution offers basic protection to the
woman's right to choose.” Stenberg v.
Carhart, 530 U.S. 914, 921 (2000).
right, however, has limits. As the Court recognized in
Casey, the State has legitimate interests in
protecting maternal health and the potential life of the
fetus. A State may regulate abortion to further those
interests, but only if the laws in question do not pose an
“undue burden” to a woman's right to end her
pregnancy. Casey, 505 U.S. at 876-79 (plurality
opinion). “An undue burden exists, and therefore a
provision of law is invalid, if its purpose or effect is to
place a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking
an abortion before the fetus attains viability.”
Id. at 879. In evaluating regulations of
pre-viability abortion, then, courts must “consider
the burdens a law imposes on abortion access together with
the benefits those laws confer.” Whole Woman's
Health v. Hellerstedt, 136 S.Ct. 2292, 2309 (2016).
unlike laws that regulate the performance of
pre-viability abortion, bans on pre-viability
abortion require no balancing at all. The United States
Constitution forbids the prohibition of abortion prior to
fetal viability. “Before viability, the State's
interests are not strong enough to support a prohibition of
abortion....” Casey, 505 U.S. at 846 (opinion
of the Court); see Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S.
124, 146 (2007). This bright-line rule governs bans, rather
than mere regulations, of pre-viability abortion.
Substantial Likelihood of Success on the Merits
threshold matter, the plaintiffs' success on the merits
requires a justiciable case. Here, clear case law supports
the plaintiffs' standing to bring suit--a fact that the
defendant has acknowledged. See Def.'s Opp'n
(doc. no. 64) at 12 (citing precedent that “allows
abortion clinics and abortion doctors to assert
constitutional claims” on behalf of their patients).
plaintiffs sue in part on behalf of their
patients.See Complaint (doc. no. 1) at 21.
They argue that the Act threatens their patients'
substantive-due-process rights, which are guaranteed ...