Lawmakers in the southeastern U.S. state of Alabama passed a near-total ban on abortion Tuesday, sparking a legal fight over a measure that could become the nation’s most stringent abortion law.
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America vowed Wednesday to challenge the legislation in court if Republican Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signs it into law. “We have no choice,” said president Leana Wen. “We are talking about the rights for generations to come.”
The Republican-dominated Senate voted 25-6 to make performing an abortion at any stage of pregnancy a felony punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison for the abortion provider. The only exception would be when the woman’s health is at serious risk.
Senators rejected an attempt to add an exception for rape and incest.
Supporters said the bill is designed to spark litigation that could lead to the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion.
“Roe v. Wade has ended the lives of millions of children,” said Alabama Republican Senator Clyde Chambliss. “This bill has the opportunity to save the lives of millions of unborn children.”
A spokeswoman for Ivey said she intends to withhold comment until she has had a chance to thoroughly review the final version of the bill.
Action by other states
Emboldened by the Supreme Court’s new conservative justices, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia have approved bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur in about the sixth week of pregnancy. And abortion opponents in several other states are seeking to challenge abortion access.
“This is a plan by the Republican Party, make no mistake, to overturn Roe v. Wade and turn back the clock on women’s reproductive civil and human rights,” U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Kirsten Gillibrand said in an interview Wednesday on CNN.
Another Democratic presidential candidate, former vice president Joe Biden, said the current law should not be declared unconstitutional.
“Roe v. Wade is settled law and should not be overturned,” Biden said. “The choice should remain between a woman and her doctor.”
A Pew Research Center poll conducted late last year found that 58 percent of those surveyed said abortion should be legal in almost all cases, while 37 percent said it should be unlawful.