Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) argued in a court filing on Monday that he has the right to prosecute people who provide and facilitate travel for out-of-state abortion access.
The U.S. district court filing is a response to a lawsuit that was filed last month by two women’s health centers and the Yellowhammer Fund — a group that provides funding and assistance to those seeking out-of-state abortions — against Marshall for his initial threats to criminalize those who provide transportation for people seeking legal abortions.
Nearly all abortions are banned in Alabama, and the Yellowhammer Fund argued in the lawsuit that criminalizing those who aid in out-of-state abortion access would impede on the group’s freedom of speech, expression and travel, adding that it has forced them to stop their abortion fund out of fear of opening themselves up to prosecution, according to The Hill.
In the court filing on Monday, Marshall responded to the arguments brought up in the lawsuit and said that those who provide transportation for out-of-state abortion access can face “criminal conspiracy” charges.
He cited Alabama law that says a “conspiracy formed in this state to do an act beyond the state, which, if done in this state, would be a criminal offense, is indictable and punishable in this state in all respects as if such conspiracy had been to do such act in this state.”
“An elective abortion performed in Alabama would be a criminal offense; thus, a conspiracy formed in the State to have that same act performed outside the State is illegal,” he wrote in the filing.
Marshall later disputed the lawsuit’s claim that such prosecution would violate freedom of speech, arguing that “speech used to conduct a crime receives no constitutional protection.” He also asked the judge to dismiss the case.
“The conspiracy is what is being punished, even if the final conduct never occurs,” he wrote in the filing. “That conduct is Alabama-based and is within Alabama’s power to prohibit.”
The Yellowhammer Fund told HuffPost in an emailed statement that it is disheartened but unsurprised by the state’s response to the lawsuit, adding that “AG Marshall is leading the charge to threaten those who help people access abortion, a charge that is massively unpopular with the citizens he was elected to serve.”
Alabama has one of the country’s strictest anti-abortion laws, making it illegal at any stage, with the sole exception being to save the life or health of the mother. Some Republican lawmakers in the state are pushing for people who get abortions to be prosecuted for murder and assault, according to Rolling Stone.
Idaho was the first state to pass a law that explicitly criminalizes out-of-state travel for abortions, including assisting others with such travel, NBC News reported. Other states, including Oklahoma and Texas, where nearly all abortions are illegal, allow lawsuits against people who facilitate with abortion access within the states’ borders.