A federal appeals court in Alabama found Wednesday that the state’s ban on the “dilation and evacuation” abortion procedure, dubbed a “dismemberment” abortion by its opponents, is unconstitutional.
This abortion method takes place between 15 and 18 weeks of pregnancy and is the most common method of second trimester abortion in the state of Alabama. It was banned in 2016 but that ban was immediately challenged by the abortion providers West Alabama Women's Center in Tuscaloosa and the Alabama Women's Center in Huntsville.
Notably, in their ruling the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals acknowledges the “brutality” of these abortion procedures.
"The State has an actual and substantial interest in lessening, as much as it can, the gruesomeness and brutality of dismemberment abortions,” they write. “That interest is so obvious that the plaintiffs do not contest it.”
However, they conclude that this legitimate state interest is not enough to outweigh “existing Supreme Court decisions.”
"At that stage of pregnancy, it is settled under existing Supreme Court decisions that the State of Alabama cannot forbid this method of abortion entirely," they write.
"In our judicial system, there is only one Supreme Court, and we are not it. As one of the 'inferior Courts,' we follow its decisions,” the conclude. “Our role is to apply the law the Supreme Court has laid down to the facts the district court found.”
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall was disappointed in the ruling but was glad that the Court acknowledged the barbarity of the procedure.
"I am disappointed that the 11th Circuit sided with the lower court in this case, but it is encouraging that the court recognized the State's important and legitimate interests in ending barbaric abortion procedures--in this case, procedures that literally tear apart babies living inside their mothers' wombs," he said in a statement.
"Our legal team is carefully considering whether we will petition the Supreme Court for review of this case,” he added. “We expect to reach a decision soon."
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) said that the ruling demonstrates the need for more conservative justices like Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
“I am disappointed in the court's ruling today; however, we should not let this discourage our steadfast commitment to protect the lives of the unborn, even if that means taking this case to the U.S. Supreme Court,” she said. “This ruling clearly demonstrates why we need conservative justices on the Supreme Court, and I look forward to the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which was representing the abortion groups in the case, praised the decision.
“Today, the court told Alabama politicians they can’t disregard a woman’s health and decision-making in favor of their ideological agenda,” Randall Marshall, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama said. “This ruling ensures that doctors can continue to use their best judgement to provide the care that is right for their patients.”