MONTGOMERY: Thousands of demonstrators prepared to take to the streets around the southern US state of Alabama on Sunday to rally against one of the nation’s most restrictive bans on abortions in decades.
Women’s reproductive rights defenders will gather in the capital, Montgomery, and in Birmingham, Anniston and Huntsville, to denounce the “Alabama Human Life Protection Act,” or HB314, which virtually outlaws terminations.
“People should have the right to make the decisions that are best for their bodies without state interference,” organisers said on Facebook.
Alabama passed a law last week that prohibits all abortions – even in cases of incest and rape – unless there is a risk of death for the mother.
“We’re going to return to the back alleys. We’re going to return to where women will do abortions to themselves,” 81-year-old Maralyn Mosley told the Montgomery Advertiser.
She had an abortion at 13, after her uncle raped her.
“We will return to the coat hangers and perforated uteruses. We will return to where women will bleed to death,” she warned.
Sunday’s rallies follow protests last week that saw women donning the iconic red tunics and white bonnets worn by the oppressed women of a dystopian future America in Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
The Alabama law is likely to be blocked in state courts before its November launch date but Republican Governor Kay Ivey acknowledged when she signed it that it was part of as a wider Republican offensive to get the issue relitigated on the national stage.
Conservative activists hope to get a Supreme Court decision against the landmark 1973 ruling known as Roe v Wade that said unduly restrictive state regulation of abortion is unconstitutional.
Conservatives are counting on support at the highest court in the land, where liberal justices are in a minority after the arrival of two conservative members appointed by President Donald Trump.
Trump appeared to suggest Alabama lawmakers had gone too far in a series of tweets late Saturday in which he described himself as “strongly Pro-Life, with the three exceptions – Rape, Incest and protecting the Life of the mother.”
He urged the anti-abortion side to “stick together and Win for Life” when it comes to voting in 2020.
While the Alabama measure is seen as particularly draconian, at least 28 US states have introduced more than 300 measures since the start of the year limiting abortion rights, according to activists.
Kentucky and Mississippi have banned abortions as soon as a foetus’s heartbeat is detectable, or around the sixth week of pregnancy. Similar measures are being adopted in Georgia, Ohio, Missouri and Tennessee.
A judge has blocked the implementation of the Kentucky law, while the Mississippi law is set to come into effect in July.
The country’s largest human rights organisation, ACLU, has said it will file suit against Alabama’s law as unconstitutional.
HB314 seeks jail terms of between 10 and 99 years for doctors performing terminations, which are counted as homicides. It stipulates no penalty for the mother.
Around two-thirds of Americans believe abortion should be legal, a Pew Center poll found last year.
US actress Eva Longoria spoke out against the Alabama and Missouri legislation as European stars including Penelope Cruz and Charlotte Gainsbourg staged a protest against the bans at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday.
“What’s happening in Alabama is so important in the world,” the “Desperate Housewives” star said. “It’s going to affect everybody if we don’t pay attention.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau added his own note of caution last week, saying he was gravely saddened by “backsliding” on women’s rights seen in several US states.