Margeaux Hartline, dressed as a handmaid, protests against a ban on nearly all abortions outside of the Alabama State House in Montgomery. Picture: AP

New York - Doctors who conduct abortions in the US have for decades been attacked in their homes, had their clinics firebombed and their families threatened.

Almost a dozen doctors and staff have been murdered - one doctor as he was handing out hymn books during a Sunday church service.

Such have been the brutal tactics of America’s "right-to-life" militants - but these zealots’ illegal acts appalled other Christians, even when they also believed that life begins at conception.

Now, however, doctors who perform virtually any abortion face up to 99 years behind bars in one southern state. And their punishment will be completely within the law.

Alabama’s state Senate voted 25-6 on Tuesday night to approve a hugely controversial law that will ban all abortions in the state, except for cases where the mother’s life is at serious risk. Even pregnancies that are a consequence of rape or incest must be allowed to run their course under a measure pushed through by the conservative Republicans who control the state’s legislature.

Myriad other southern and Midwestern Bible Belt states are doing the same, emboldened by Donald Trump’s presidency, which has tipped the balance towards the Right in the membership of the US Supreme Court - America’s ultimate arbiter of abortion law.

The abortion bans have sparked protests by women dressed as 17th-century Puritans, an actors’ boycott of anti-abortion states and even a call by female Hollywood stars for women to go on a "sex strike". 

When the BBC’s Andrew Neil last week suggested to US conservative commentator Ben Shapiro that the abortion ban was taking America "back to the Dark Ages", his interviewee walked out in fury.

Although women who have an abortion won’t face punishment, Alabama has criminalised the procedure as a "Class A felony" for the doctor, following a four-hour debate in the state’s Senate.

The argument that some abortions must be morally justifiable was swept away by senators who have compared abortion to the Holocaust.

Daily Mail