Planned Parenthood, one of the largest abortion providers in the country, says it is gearing up for a legal battle against Alabama after state lawmakers passed the most extreme abortion ban the country has seen in more than 40 years.
Organization leaders said Wednesday that Alabama's near-total abortion ban threatens the health and lives of women and puts doctors at risk of imprisonment for trying to help them.
The bill, passed by the Alabama Senate on Tuesday, would make it a felony punishable by life or 10 to 99 years in prison to perform an abortion in the state of Alabama. Attempting to perform an abortion also would be a felony, punishable by one to 10 years in prison.
The Alabama bill now goes to Republican Gov. Kay Ivey who has not said whether she will sign it.
Planned Parenthood leaders said in a press call Wednesday that they will file a legal challenge if the bill becomes law.
"Today is a dark day for women in Alabama and across the country," said Staci Fox, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast. “Banning abortion is horrible ... We will take this to court and ensure abortion remains safe and legal and accessible in the state of Alabama."
The bill only allows abortion if the life of the woman is threatened; if the woman had a mental illness that could result in "her death or the death of her unborn child;" or if the fetus had a fatal anomaly that would result in stillbirth or its death after birth. There is no exception for rape and incest.
If Ivey signs the bill, it will make Alabama the fifth state to pass a law restricting abortion this year.
Many abortion advocates have said the six-week threshold is just as extreme as a total ban because many women don't know they are pregnant at six weeks.
Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union and other abortion rights advocates say all the bans are unconstitutional and have filed, or plan to file, lawsuits in each state.
Emboldened by a new conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, Republican lawmakers say they are passing anti-abortion bills in an attempt to get the landmark Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 overturned.
"It’s no coincidence that this comes only days after Georgia enacted its own extreme ban on abortion," said Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “We will do whatever it takes to stop these dangerous bans so our patients can continue to receive the care that they need.”
Doctors across the country have voiced opposition to the abortion bans, saying the laws will prevent them from helping women in need.
Yashica Robinson, an Alabama-based OB-GYN and board member for Physicians for Reproductive Health, said signing the Alabama bill into law would be a "grave mistake."
"Physicians will be unwilling to help patients in need, even when continuing pregnancy is detrimental to a patient’s health or potentially fatal, out of fear of being scrutinized by the criminal justice system," Robinson said. “It is inappropriate for lawmakers to insert their own belief systems into complex, personal health decisions that could affect my daughter and the people I take care of in Alabama."
Fox said Alabama's law is particularly harsh because the state has some of the worst health outcomes for women, including high rates of infant and maternal mortality among black women, according to Planned Parenthood.
More than 300 proposals to restrict abortion have been introduced in states so far this year, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
The proposals have ranged from the six-week bans in 15 states to total abortion bans in eight states, Guttmacher found.
Elizabeth Nash, spokeswoman for the Guttmacher Institute, said the recent spike in abortion bans is historic.
“The shift has been moving from restrictions to bans," Nash said. "I don’t know if I was expecting this level of a reaction and especially seeing a total abortion ban moving."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Today is a dark day for women': Planned Parenthood vows to challenge Alabama abortion ban