Tuesday, May 17, 2022
Thousands of people joined Bans off Our Bodies protests Saturday in what organisers claimed was over 380 cities and towns across the United States. Protesters demanded that the government keep abortion legal and accessible. Earlier this month, Politico published a leaked draft of a US Supreme Court decision showing that a majority of justices on the nine-judge panel were planning to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that rendered the procedure legal throughout the US. Protests took place in Atlanta, Chicago, New York and other cities. There were an estimated 20,000 marchers in Washington D.C. alone.
“It’s only the most important issue there is right now because if the leaked opinion becomes the final opinion,” said Ann Hoffman, who attended the protest in Washington D.C., “it could affect all kinds of rights — not just the right of choice but the right to health care.” Hoffman, 79, claimed to have been advocating for women’s rights since the 1970s.
A few dozen anti-abortion-rights counter-protesters also came to Washington D.C. that day. One, 24-year-old Anna Lulis of Virginia, held a sign reading “women’s rights begin in the womb.” Police kept the two groups from approaching each other, but there were some clashes.
If Roe v. Wade is overturned, the legality of abortion will revert to individual states. The Guttmacher Institute predicts that 26 of the nation’s 50 states are “certain or likely” to ban abortion. Many states have already passed “trigger laws”: abortion bans that will go into effect automatically if Roe v Wade is overturned.
The leaked draft opinion covers Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which appeared before the Court last December. The state of Mississippi had passed a law forbidding almost all abortions after 15 weeks. This was based on the idea that a 15-week old fetus may be capable of surviving outside the woman’s uterus, such as in an incubator. The common understanding is that a fetus cannot do this until 24 weeks. Through its agent Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi asked the Supreme Court to overturn its 1973 decision that women have a constitutional right to abortion. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only abortion clinic remaining in the state, argues that there is no reason for the Court to do this.
Earlier this week, members of the US Senate attempted to pass a federal law declaring abortion legal throughout the country, which would have overruled any state laws, but it failed to get enough votes to pass. The efforts stalled on Wednesday.
Despite Roe, many states within the US had passed laws limiting abortions or making them more difficult to get, for example by mandating waiting periods that necessitate that the patient take an extra day away from work. More recently, the state of Texas had passed a law limiting abortion to the first six weeks after the last menstrual period. At that time, many women do not yet know they are pregnant.
United States President Joe Biden has advised the American people to vote for pro-abortion-rights candidates in the upcoming 2022 midterm elections.