Criminal Justice

Is prison time a possibility under restrictive abortion laws? One state authorizes life sentences for medical doctors

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State abortion restrictions that could take effect if Roe v. Wade is overturned call for a variety of punishments for doctors, including a sentence of up to life in prison in one state.

Texas is particularly punitive. Its Human Life Protection Act, signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in June 2021, bans abortions except to save the life of the mother or to prevent substantial impairment of a major bodily function, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

The punishment for a person performing an abortion is a minimum of five years in prison and a maximum of life in prison.

An Alabama law signed in 2019 by Republican Gov. Kay Ivey banning most abortions is similarly punitive. It calls for a minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum of 99 years for anyone performing an abortion.

Other laws call for sentences of up to five years in prison in Florida, up to 10 years in Oklahoma and up to 10 years of hard labor in Louisiana, according to the Austin American-Statesman and Reuters.

Hefty fines and suspension of medical licenses are also a possibility, Politico reports. In Oklahoma, the fine could be as high as $100,000.

Pharmacists who provide abortion-inducing pills could also be prosecuted in some states.

But women who obtain abortions are shielded under abortion laws that would take effect if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe, according to Reuters. A Louisiana bill would have allowed murder charges against women who get abortions, but the bill was withdrawn.

Jill Adams, the executive director of reproductive-rights lawyering group If/When/How, told Reuters that women could still face prosecution under other laws. Prosecutors could use laws banning concealment of a birth, abuse of a corpse and the unlicensed practice of medicine, she said.

“Prosecutors will reach into the code and treat it like a grab bag and pull out what they can,” Adams told Reuters.

See also: “Alito sidesteps question about collegiality during remote appearance at law school” “Could SCOTUS leaker be charged with crime? Espionage Act wouldn’t apply, but other laws might” “Is Alito right about the ‘unbroken tradition of prohibiting abortion’? Scholars disagree on the history” “Legal experts fear loss of abortion right could usher in end of same-sex marriage, other rights” “What is the potential impact of the abortion case before the Supreme Court?” “Rare but not unprecedented Supreme Court leak considered ‘staggering’” “What does the original Roe v. Wade really say?” “Where are the other draft opinions in SCOTUS abortion case? So far, there are none, report says” “Alito’s leaked draft opinion shows Supreme Court is likely to strike down Roe v. Wade”

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