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Alabama abortion law: Judge blocks bill from taking effect

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A federal judge has temporarily blocked an abortion ban in Alabama that would criminalise the procedure at any stage of a pregnancy in most cases.

Abortion rights groups sued the state after Republican lawmakers approved the bill in May, but both sides expected the law to be blocked in federal court.

The controversial bill was to go into effect on 15 November.

Anti-abortion supporters hope the case will eventually reach the Supreme Court to overturn national abortion laws.

US District Judge Myron Thompson granted a preliminary injunction on Tuesday until the court is able to resolve the case in full.

He wrote in a 17-page opinion that the abortion ban "defies the United States constitution".

"Alabama's abortion ban contravenes clear Supreme Case Court precedent," the judge wrote.

"It violates the right of an individual to privacy, to make choices central to personal dignity and autonomy. It diminishes the capacity of women to act in society, and to make reproductive decisions."

The law allows exceptions only if the mother's life is seriously at risk or the foetus has a fatal complication - but would not allow exceptions in cases of rape or incest.

Physicians who provide abortions could go to jail for life under the ban.

Alabama is one of several states to pass such highly restrictive abortion laws this year - and dozens more have proposed similar bills in their legislatures - though none have gone into effect thus far.