On Friday, September 20th U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ordered the State of Alabama to pay the legal fees for the attorneys of the abortion clinics that challenged a 2016 Alabama Abortion Law that sought to ban most popular second-trimester abortions.
The American Civil Liberties Union and two abortion clinics, West Alabama Women’s Center and Alabama Women’s Center, sued Alabama after the Governor signed a law in 2016 banning a procedure commonly known as dilation and evacuation. Judge Thompson ruled the 2016 law unconstitutional in October of 2017. In his order, Judge Thompson said that the law would have effectively banned all abortions in the state after the 15th week of pregnancy. After appealing Judge Thompson’s ruling to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, the three-judge panel agreed with Thompson’s interpretation of Supreme Court case law, even while calling it an aberration in August of 2018.
The State of Alabama appealed that decision to the United States Supreme Court, who refused to hear the appeal in the last court session. It was only after the State exhausted all of its appeals that Judge Thompson ordered the state to pay for the plaintiffs’ legal fees in the amount of $675,964.
This case is unrelated to the near-total abortion ban that the Legislature passed in this last legislative session. That legislation has been challenged in Federal Court as well but is still working its way through the federal court system. The Alabama Human Life Protection Act was designed to be unconstitutional in an attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The ruling wasn’t a complete victory for the plaintiffs and their attorneys. They had filed a motion with the court to recoup over $1 million in legal fees and almost $250,000 for expenses on August 1st. The order by Judge Thompson was for around half that amount.
This isn’t the first time the State of Alabama has paid the ACLU’s legal fees in a fight over abortion restrictions. In 2016, the State of Alabama paid the ACLU, who was representing a group of abortion clinics in the state, $1.7 million dollars in legal fees when it successfully challenged a state law banning another common
There has been no word from the State about any plans they have moving forward in this case or if they plan to appeal the ruling by Judge Thompson over the legal fees.