The law forbids the procedure in all cases, including rape and incest, except where it is necessary to save the pregnant person’s life.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed the extreme measure into law earlier this month. It is seen as a clear attack on Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case that legalized abortion across the country.
Both the ACLU and Planned Parenthood previously pledged to fight the law, which threatens doctors who perform abortions with a felony charge and up to 99 years in prison.
Alabama’s ban is just one of several new abortion measures passed by lawmakers in Republican-controlled states, including Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio and Utah, with each one in various stages of approval. More restrictive abortion legislation is pending in other states, as well.
Some of the measures, known as “heartbeat” bills, prohibit the termination of a pregnancy when a nascent heartbeat can be detected, which usually happens around six weeks. Some health care professionals, however, say using the term “heartbeat” at that point is technically inaccurate since the heart is still in its early formation stages.
More restrictive abortion legislation has cropped up since Brett Kavanaugh joined the Supreme Court and tipped the scales toward conservatives on the bench.
A recent HuffPost/YouGov poll found the Alabama law to be deeply unpopular with Americans, with just 31% saying they approve of it. Other polls have also shown that most Americans disapprove of the law. Even President Donald Trump recently said he backs exceptions for rape and incest, although he urged Republicans to “stick together” on the issue of abortion.
The rightward shift in abortion policy has sparked protests around the country. On Sunday, Alabama’s major newspapers published essays from more than 200 women on the topic, given that “a majority of men in the state legislature spoke for them” the previous week.
“What we’re seeing in Alabama is a manmade public health emergency and we’re fighting back,” Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. “To patients seeking safe, legal abortion care in Alabama: this extreme ban hasn’t gone into effect yet — and we will make sure of it.”
“Make no mistake: Abortion remains ― and will remain ― safe and legal in Alabama. With this lawsuit, we are seeking a court order to make sure this law never takes effect,” said Randall Marshall, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama. “We hope our state’s elected leaders take note and stop using taxpayer dollars on a legal gamble that they know is unconstitutional and unenforceable.”
The Alabama law is scheduled to go into effect on Nov. 15, 2019.