WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic presidential candidates rushed Wednesday to condemn Alabama's approval of a ban on nearly all abortions, warning that it portends a larger offensive by conservatives around the country to undermine the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.
Republican Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is deciding whether to sign a bill making performing abortions at any stage of pregnancy a felony punishable by up to 99 years in prison for the provider.
Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia have approved abortion bans once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur in about the sixth week of pregnancy. Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa signed a six-week ban last year in the state that kicks off presidential primary voting.
None of those are yet in force, either because of later effective dates or legal challenges that have blocked them.
Alabama's limits would nonetheless be the nation's strictest, the only exception coming when the woman's health is at serious risk. Supporters have been open about predicting that they could spark legal fights that will eventually lead the Supreme Court to revisit the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion.
Joe Biden tweeted: "Republicans in AL, FL, GA, and OH are ushering in laws that clearly violate Roe v Wade and they should be declared unconstitutional. Roe v Wade is settled law and should not be overturned. This choice should remain between a woman and her doctor."
The former vice president's reference to Florida was unclear since that state's fetal heartbeat bill died in committee and was never approved by the Legislature.
Sen. Cory Booker told The Associated Press that backers of the Alabama measure are "saying that they designed this bill with certain provisions — like not having any exceptions for rape or incest — specifically designed so that they can lead a fight to the Supreme Court" to "undermine other freedoms and liberties of women to control their own bodies."
He said it's not enough to hope that the Supreme Court will uphold the Roe v. Wade decision in the future, saying, "We should not wait. We cannot wait to see if this gets worse."
"We have to act," Booker said by phone. "All of us have an obligation to understand that this is a crisis for our country."
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was already planning to fly Thursday to Atlanta to meet with women, including abortion providers and patients at Georgia's state Capitol to protest the measure. She told CNN on Wednesday that Alabama's bill shows it is "certainly the intention of President Trump and the Republican Party to overturn Roe v. Wade."
"Rolling back the clock on basic women's human rights and civil rights has to be fought tooth and nail," Gillibrand said. "This is a fight women cannot afford to lose."
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar tweeted that Alabama's measure was "wrong" and "unconstitutional," former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper tweeted that it "will cost women their lives." Former Texas. Rep. Beto O'Rourke said on Twitter, "We will fight these dangerous efforts with everything we've got in legislatures across the country, in the courts, and at the ballot box. We will win."
Also tweeting was Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, who said Alabama legislators were "ignoring science, criminalizing abortion, and punishing women" and that "the government's role should be to make sure all women have access to comprehensive affordable care, and that includes safe and legal abortion."