MONTGOMERY - Alabama has become the latest US state to move to restrict abortions by passing a bill to outlaw the procedure in almost all cases. The law includes a ban on abortion in cases of rape or incest.

Supporters say they expect the law to be blocked in court but hope that the appeals process will bring it before the Supreme Court. They want the court, which now has a conservative majority, to overturn the 1973 ruling legalising abortion.

Alabama’s 35-seat senate is dominated by men, and none of its four female senators backed the ban which will now go to Governor Kay Ivey. She has said she will only sign it into law once she has considered it. Sixteen other states are seeking to impose new restrictions on abortion. Earlier this year the Supreme Court blocked implementation of new abortion restrictions in Louisiana. However the ruling was made by a narrow margin and the case is due to be reviewed later this year.

The bill’s architects expect that it will be defeated in the lower courts, but hope that it will therefore eventually come before the Supreme Court.

They have been emboldened by the addition of two conservative justices nominated by President Donald Trump, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, who give the nine-member court a conservative majority. Their aim, they say, is for the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade ruling to be undermined or overturned completely. Alabama’s Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth said: “Roe must be challenged, and I am proud that Alabama is leading the way.”

Sixteen other states are seeking to impose new restrictions on abortion

Eric Johnston, who founded the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition that helped draft the bill, told NPR: “The dynamic has changed. “The judges have changed, a lot of changes over that time, and so I think we’re at the point where we need to take a bigger and a bolder step.” Under the bill, doctors face 10 years in prison for attempting to terminate a pregnancy and 99 years for carrying out the procedure. A woman who has an abortion would not be held criminally liable, and abortion in cases where the mother’s life is at serious risk are allowed.

The state Senate approved the law by 25 votes to six, rejecting exemptions for cases of rape or incest, with some noting all those voting for the bill were men. 22 Senators voted against including an exception for rape or incest in Alabama’s new draconian abortion law.  Democrats here in Alabama knew they had no chance of stopping this controversial bill, but that only seemed to make the debate on the senate floor even more heated. Activists packed the senate gallery to watch the drama play out - reacting with laughter and gasps in turn.

The few women who spoke on the floor were quick to highlight a key fact: this decision about women’s bodies was being made almost entirely by men. As one female lawmaker introduced a sure-to-fail amendment to the bill to make it illegal for men to get vasectomies, the gallery and overflow watch room upstairs burst into laughter.

On the senate floor, when the amendment failed, the lawmaker made her point, saying: We have never policed men’s bodies the way we do women’s.

Just outside the stark white walls of the state legislature were still more pro-choice advocates, raising signs that called for women’s equality, for protecting Planned Parenthood, for men to stay out of women’s rights issues.