Campaigners fear US could be on brink of all-out abortion ban

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By Amanda Walker, US correspondent

Seeking an abortion in Alabama is already hard. Outside the Reproductive Health Services clinic in the city of Montgomery, protesters harangue approaching patients.

The protesters accuse them of murdering their babies, sometimes live-streaming them on Facebook as they enter.

Inside the clinic they have adapted to being under constant threat – owner June Ayers has seen a lot in her 40 years here.

Image: Clinic owner June Ayers says she believes there could one day be a US-wide abortion ban

"We don't allow cell phones inside," she said.

"That's how they could coordinate an attack. In Alabama we had an abortion clinic that was bombed. Dr Gunn was a friend of mine – he was murdered."


Around her clinic, flowers and scented candles sit alongside female empowerment posters and sexual health pamphlets.

Ms Ayers offers hugs to the women who enter, encouraging deep breaths to help them through an often frightening experience.

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"I've seen patients as young as nine. I've seen patients as old as 53," she said.

"Rape, incest and women who have been widowed, women who have been beaten and women who have nine children and are trying to take care of those children, and women who have medical conditions and cancer, lupus and one kidney." Her list goes on.

Pro-abortion campaigners outside Alabama State Capitol
Image: Pro-abortion campaigners demonstrate outside the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery

The Alabama senate has just passed the strictest abortion law in the country. Senators voted to ban all abortions, with the only exception being if a woman's life is in danger.

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It is a strategic push to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe versus Wade ruling, which gives women the right to end a pregnancy.

Of the 25 male Republicans who voted in favour of the law, Senator Del Marsh is the only one who agreed to speak to us about it.

When asked if he stands by the law that offers no exemption for rape or incest, he said: "I mean, I voted for that amendment. I would have liked to have seen it on there but it didn't make it. At the end of the day, the bill passed with the only exemption is the health of the mother."

This means that if a young girl is raped, she would be forced to have that child. But is Del Marsh comfortable with having voted for that?

"What I voted for was a bill to get to the Supreme Court to challenge Roe versus Wade," he said.

"That's what the instrument is. We understand that this is not the end game. The federal courts are going to have to make a determination. What we're trying to do is force, then reconsider. That's what this is all about."

I then asked him if he understood why the image of him and his 24 male colleagues who voted for this law had enraged so many people across the country.

"I do," he replied. "But we have to remember in the House where this bill began, every Republican woman in the House supported this bill."

A wave of anger is sweeping America as the Alabama law is seen as an increased erosion of women's reproductive rights. The anti-abortion movement has been emboldened by a conservative majority in the Supreme Court.

Protesters stand outside the Alabama clinic trying to persuade women not to go through with their abortions
Image: Outside the Alabama clinic Sky News interviewed a man who tries to persuade women not to have abortions

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