Democrats vying for the party’s nomination for president roundly condemned a measure approved by the Alabama Senate on Tuesday that would outlaw almost all abortions in the state, calling it an outrageous, appalling and unconstitutional attack on women that they vowed to challenge.
Among the measure’s most forceful critics were the leading women candidates: Senator Kamala Harris of California, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who has made fighting for women central to her campaign.
“This is a war on women,” Ms. Gillibrand said, “and it is time to fight like hell.”
The legislation bans abortions at every stage of pregnancy and criminalizes the procedure for doctors, who could be charged with felonies and face up to 99 years in prison. It includes an exception for cases when the mother’s life is at serious risk, but not for cases of rape or incest — a subject of fierce debate among lawmakers in recent days.
The bill represents the most far-reaching effort in the nation this year to curb abortion rights. Other states — including Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio — have enacted a spate of restrictive bills, including so-called fetal heartbeat bills; these bills essentially ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, a time when many women do not yet know they are pregnant.
The House approved the Alabama measure last month, so it now moves to the desk of Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican. If Ms. Ivey signs the bill, it would directly challenge Roe v. Wade, the case that recognized a woman’s constitutional right to end a pregnancy. Although the governor has not publicly committed to signing the legislation, many Republican lawmakers expect her support.
“This ban is dangerous and exceptionally cruel — and the bill’s authors want to use it to overturn Roe v. Wade,” Ms. Warren said. “I’ve lived in that America and let me tell you: We are not going back — not now, not ever. We will fight this. And we will win.”
In an email to supporters, Ms. Harris solicited donations for abortion funds and other organizations that advocate for women’s rights and access to health care, writing that the Alabama legislation “puts women’s lives at risk.”
“This isn’t a scene from The Handmaid’s Tale,” Ms. Harris said, referring to the novel and television series set in a totalitarian, patriarchal society. “This is happening in Alabama — in our country — in the year 2019.”
“This is wrong,” Ms. Klobuchar said. “This is unconstitutional.”
The measure was also assailed by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Former Representative Beto O’Rourke and other candidates, who said the bill trampled on a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body. Mr. Sanders called abortion “a constitutional right” and urged Ms. Ivey to veto the bill. Several candidates also voiced support for the reproductive health care provider Planned Parenthood.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who once voted for a constitutional amendment that would have allowed individual states to overturn Roe v. Wade, said Wednesday that the Alabama measure and the fetal heartbeat bills passed by other states “clearly violate” the court decision and “should be declared unconstitutional.”
“Roe v Wade is settled law and should not be overturned,” he said. “This choice should remain between a woman and her doctor.”
Ms. Gillibrand announced that she would travel to Atlanta on Thursday to hold a round-table with women at the Georgia State House.
“Right now, the conversation about what women can do with our own bodies is being driven by too many male politicians,” she said. “It should be led by the actual experts: women and doctors. So I’m going to hear from the people most directly affected by abortion bans like Georgia’s.”