Alabama's governor signed a bill on Wednesday to ban nearly all abortions in the state, even in cases of rape and incest, in the latest challenge by conservatives to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision establishing a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy.
U.S. abortion rights activists had already vowed to go to court to block enforcement of the Alabama measure, the strictest anti-abortion law yet enacted with the intention of provoking reconsideration of the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.
The effort has thrust the emotional debate over abortion back to the forefront of national politics in the run-up to the 2020 U.S. presidential elections.
Governor Kay Ivey, a Republican, signed the measure a day after the Republican-controlled state Senate approved the ban and rejected a Democratic-backed amendment to allow abortions for women and girls impregnated by rape or incest.
To the bill’s many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God, Ivey said in a statement.
Abortion supporters across the country condemned the bill as part of a Republican-backed assault on the rights of women to control their own bodies.
This is the war on women, said California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, It's in full swing, and it's decades in the making.
The Alabama law would take effect in six months.
Legislation to restrict abortion rights has been introduced this year in 16 states, four of whose governors have signed bills banning abortion if an embryonic heartbeat can be detected.
Planned Parenthood joined the American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday in filing a legal challenge to Ohio's recent ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.
The Alabama bill goes further, banning abortions at any time, unless the mother's health is in danger. Those performing abortions would be committing a felony, punishable by up to 99 years in prison. A woman who receives an abortion would not be held criminally liable.
Most of the Democratic candidates seeking their party's 2020 nomination to run for the White House condemned the Alabama law, calling it an attack on women's rights and vowing to fight to uphold legal access to abortion.
The idea that supposed leaders have passed a law that would criminalize a physician for assisting a woman on something that she, in consult with her physician, with her God, with her faith leader, has made the decision to do, that is her body that you would criminalize, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California, one of the large field of hopefuls, said at a town hall on Wednesday morning in Nashua, New Hampshire.