ALABAMA (WHNT) — The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a statement of interest in two Alabama lawsuits over the right to travel to access legal abortions.
The two cases the DOJ filed the statement in response to are Yellowhammer Fund v. Marshall and West Alabama Women’s Center, et al., v. Marshall. The Yellowhammer Fund is a group that stopped providing financial assistance to low-income abortion patients because of prosecution concerns, and the West Alabama Women’s Center is a reproductive health and abortion clinic in Tuscaloosa.
“The plaintiffs in these cases are organizations and individuals within Alabama seeking to facilitate individuals’ access to legal, out-of-state abortions,” the DOJ said. “They brought suit in response to the Alabama Attorney General’s argument that he may criminally prosecute individuals within Alabama who assist others in obtaining legal, out-of-state abortions.”
Thursday night Marshall’s office provided a comment on the DOJ action.
“Attorney General Marshall is prepared to defend our pro-life laws against this most recent challenge by the Biden Administration and, as always, welcomes the opportunity,” Marshall’s spokeswoman told News 19.
In its statement, the DOJ says the Constitution protects the right to travel across state lines and engage in conduct that is lawful where it is performed. “The right to travel is not limited only to physical movement; it also protects the right to engage in lawful conduct once an individual arrives in another state.”
The statement also argues that Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s threats of prosecution of individuals for providing assistance to people seeking lawful out-of-state abortions are unconstitutional.
“Here, the Alabama AG’s threatened conspiracy prosecutions plainly violate these principles.
Individuals within Alabama have a constitutional right to leave the state and obtain a legal abortion in another state,” the statement of interest says.
The DOJ also argues third parties assisting others to travel has also been held by the Supreme Court, meaning the attorney general can’t criminalize third-party assistance for interstate travel.
“Specifically, the Alabama Attorney General contends that providing assistance within Alabama to someone seeking an out-of-state abortion constitutes a criminal conspiracy, regardless of whether the abortion is legal in the state where it is performed, as long as the abortion would be illegal if performed within Alabama. Plaintiffs have challenged the Alabama Attorney General’s threatened conspiracy prosecutions on a variety of grounds, including as being inconsistent with the Constitution’s right to travel,” the DOJ says.
U.S. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, who leads the Reproductive Rights Task Force formed following the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs overturning Roe v. Wade, says this filing is just one part of the Justice Department’s ongoing work to safeguard ‘reproductive freedoms.’