The U.S. Flag and Alabama State Flag fly over the Alabama Governor's Mansion as the state Senate votes on the strictest anti-abortion bill in the United States at the Alabama Legislature in Montgomery
By Gabriella Borter
(Reuters) - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit on Friday challenging a law enacted by Alabama last week that bans nearly all abortions and makes performing the procedure a felony punishable by up to 99 years in prison.
The lawsuit is one of several the groups have filed or are preparing to file against states that recently passed strict anti-abortion measures in an effort to prompt the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that guarantees a woman's constitutional right to abortion.
On Friday, Missouri Governor Mike Parson, a Republican, signed a bill into law that bans abortion beginning in the eighth week of pregnancy. In Mississippi, a federal judge blocked a law that would ban abortions once an embryonic heartbeat is detected, which can occur at six weeks after conception.
"This dangerous, immoral, and unconstitutional ban threatens people's lives and well-being and we are suing to protect our patients' rights," Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a women's healthcare and abortion provider, said in a statement.
The ACLU's Alabama chapter and Planned Parenthood of America filed their complaint in federal court in Alabama on behalf of the Southern state's three abortion clinics and Planned Parenthood Southeast.
Anti-abortion advocates expected legal challenges to Alabama's new law, which will be the most restrictive in the nation when it takes effect in November, and say they welcome the chance to have a court test their conviction that a fetus' right to life is paramount.
Mississippi joined Georgia, Kentucky and Ohio earlier this year in outlawing abortion after a doctor can detect an embryonic heartbeat.
In granting the preliminary injunction on Friday, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves wrote that the Mississippi law, which was scheduled to take effect on July 1, would prevent a woman's free choice "which is central to personal dignity and autonomy."
The measure was challenged in court on behalf of the Jackson Women's Health Organization, the state's lone abortion facility.
The ACLU and Planned Parenthood obtained an injunction from a judge in March blocking Kentucky's abortion ban. The two organizations have filed lawsuits in Ohio and are preparing a legal fight in Georgia, they said in a statement on Friday.
The wave of anti-abortion legislation reflects a boost of confidence among anti-abortion advocates after Republican President Donald Trump nominated two conservative judges, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, to the Supreme Court, tilting the court's political balance to the right.
(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York, Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Jonathan Oatis and Sonya Hepinstall)