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The U.S. states with the most restrictive abortion laws
Alabama has banned nearly all abortions, creating exceptions only to protect the mother's health. The bill was signed by the state's Republican governor, Kay Ivey, who is a strong opponent of abortion. Legislation to restrict abortion rights has been introduced this year in 16 states, four of whose governors have signed bills banning abortion if an embryonic heartbeat can be detected. Embryonic cardiac activity can be detected as early as six weeks, before a woman may be aware she is pregnant.

Anti-abortion advocates know any laws they pass are certain to be challenged. Courts this year have blocked a restrictive Kentucky law and another in Iowa passed last year. But supporters of the Alabama ban said the right to life of the fetus transcends other rights, an idea they would like tested at the Supreme Court. The high court, now with a majority of conservative justices after Republican President Donald Trump appointed two, could possibly overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision establishing a woman's right to an abortion.

While challenges to state bans on certain abortion procedures and abortion access remain on appeal in the federal courts, the most recent bans have been based on gestational age. Here are the states with the country's most restrictive abortion laws, based on gestational age or fetal development.

REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry