Alabama on Tuesday became the latest state to enact stricter abortion laws, with Gov. Robert Bentley (R) signing a bill that would require abortion providers to meet tougher benchmarks for performing the procedure.

The new Alabama law is similar to the one signed into law recently in North Dakota and previously in Tennessee and Mississippi, in that it forces doctors providing abortions to have hospital-admitting privileges.

Many doctors practicing abortion in Alabama come from out of state and have agreements with local doctors for follow-up care. The new law would prevent such arrangements. Critics say it threatens to shutter the remaining abortion providers altogether.

North Dakota enacted the nation's toughest abortion laws last month, including prohibiting abortions after about six weeks. Earlier this year, Arkansas passed a bill that would prevent abortions after about 12 weeks.

Many of these laws are expected to be challenged on appeal, possibly up to the Supreme Court.

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"We only think it's fair that when a woman goes to have an abortion that it be in a very safe and protected environment and that she get the utmost of care," McClurkin said. "We would hope that one day she would choose not to."

Opponents of the bill, including Planned Parenthood Southeast, have said it could close clinics and is an effort to restrict access to abortions.

In a news release today, Planned Parenthood Southeast said the provision requiring hospital admitting privileges is similar to one passed in Mississippi that has been challenged in court. The organization said the requirement will not improve health and safety for patients.

But Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said it was appropriately titled the Women's Health and Safety Act.

"This really is about the health and safety of women," Beason said.