State's AG Wants to Go After Women Who Take Abortion Pills

Despite an Alabama law protecting them, thanks to an older law on chemical endangerment of kids
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 11, 2023 8:44 AM CST
Updated Jan 11, 2023 8:51 AM CST
Alabama AG: We'll Go After Women Who Take Abortion Pills
Boxes of the drug mifepristone sit on a shelf at the West Alabama Women's Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on March 16.   (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed, File)

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration shifted its rules to allow pharmacies to dispense both mifepristone and misoprostol, drugs used for medication abortions. In theory, women who take advantage of this change and use the drugs for an abortion wouldn't have to fear prosecution under Alabama's new Human Life Protection Act, legislation signed by Gov. Kay Ivey in 2019 that went into effect last June after Roe v. Wade was overturned. Although the state's law criminalizes abortions and can prosecute doctors who provide them, women themselves can't be held criminally liable for having abortions, per the Daily Beast. However, just a few days after the FDA's decision, Alabama's attorney general is signaling that women who get abortions may indeed be prosecuted in his state, using an older law on the books regarding chemical endangerment.

That legislation, passed in 2006, was designed to protect kids from fumes produced in home-based meth labs, reports But on Tuesday, state AG Steve Marshall noted that the law could be wielded against women who seek abortions. "The Human Life Protection Act ... does not provide an across-the-board exemption from all criminal laws, including the chemical-endangerment law—which the Alabama Supreme Court has affirmed and reaffirmed protects unborn children," Marshall says in a statement. "Elective abortion—including abortion pills—is illegal in Alabama. Nothing about the Justice Department's guidance changes that." He goes on to warn that he "will vigorously enforce Alabama law to protect unborn life." Soon after it went into effect, the chemical endangerment law was appropriated by prosecutors who used it against women who used drugs while pregnant.

In 2013 and 2014, Alabama's Supreme Court upheld prosecutions of pregnant patients who fell under that umbrella, including the conviction of Amanda Kimbrough, whose infant son died shortly after he was born; an autopsy found he'd died of meth intoxication, per 1819 News. Kimbrough was sentenced to 10 years in prison. A 2015 ProPublica report found that hundreds of women across Alabama have been prosecuted under the chemical endangerment law—nearly 500 at the time the article was written. Emily Roth, an attorney with Pregnancy Justice, an advocacy group for pregnant women, says using the law to apply to abortion medication would undermine the intent of the HLPA in protecting women. She tells her group "stands ready to challenge any attempt to expand the chemical endangerment statute" to apply to using abortion meds. (More abortion pill stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.