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’ve adapted to being under constant threat – owner June Ayers has seen a lot in her 40 years here.
“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.
“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.
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.
It’s 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.
Pro-choice activists, democratic presidential hopefuls and celebrities have been lining up to express their outrage. On late-night talk shows and Instagram accounts, pleas have been made for donations to the Yellowhammer fund, which helps low income women in Alabama access abortion care.
Operated out of a rundown rented house in the Montgomery suburbs, a handful of workers can barely keep up with the flood of donations.
The fund’s director, Amanda Reyes, told Sky News about this unintended consequence of the law.
“The surge in donations that we have had has been absolutely overwhelming to the point where we’re not even sure how much money we’ve raised yet. And it’s probably going to take us several weeks to determine that amount. And we are absolutely shocked.”
“Last year, our budget was probably somewhere around $85,000 (£65,000). And this year it’s going to be much more than that. And we’re looking forward to retooling our budget and improving abortion access in Alabama.”
Most women seeking abortions in Alabama are living below the poverty line.
At the clinic, we met a young mother who simply can’t afford another child. She had a scan which showed how she was only three weeks pregnant. Under the new law, her abortion would be illegal.
Ms Ayers then said she thought America could be on the brink of an all-out abortion ban.
“I think Roe is definitely in jeopardy – without a doubt – with the Supreme Court that we have right now. Yes.”
With the 2020 election is on the horizon, and these new abortion laws are setting the battle lines for a fierce fight.
Source: SKY NEWS