The US Supreme Court’s decision last Friday to tear up federal abortion law marked a dangerous new phase for a woman’s right to choose. It overturned the Roe v Wade case, which granted access to abortion for over 50 years, leaving it up to individual states to decide if women can access abortions. In some, it’s already been made illegal. Within hours of the ruling there were over 100 protests across the US, with some viciously attacked by cops.
In Eugene, Oregon, protesters gathered for a “night of rage”, meeting at a family planning clinic. They “threw smoke bombs at officers along with several filled water bottles,” while cops threw pepper spray projectiles at them. Police arrested ten people. Early last Saturday morning in Longmont, Colorado, the offices of Life Choices—an anti-choice Christian organisation—were set on fire.
Spray painted on the building was, “If abortions aren’t safe neither are you” and “Bans off our bodies”. At a rally in Phoenix, Arizona, police deployed tear gas without warning. Opinion polls consistently show there is a pro-choice majority in the US. A YouGov poll the week before the decision showed just 37 percent of people agreed with overturning Roe v Wade.
President Joe Biden blasted the decision, calling it “a realisation of an extreme ideology and a tragic error by the Supreme Court”. And Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren argued Democrats should be “focused like a laser on the election in November”. There will be legal challenges to the Supreme Court’s decision. These are important.
But elections and legal cases alone are not enough to grant women the right to choose. These have to come alongside a wider movement demanding justice for women. Women’s lives depend on victory. A tsunami of rage must crash down on every anti-choice bigot who thinks they have a say over women’s bodies.
Ripping up Roe v Wade was never going to be enough for the right. Reactionaries have been emboldened and want to go further. South Dakota’s governor Kristi Noem said the state would enforce a ban on telemedicine abortions. This would stop women accessing abortion pills that are federally authorised.
But US Attorney General Merrick Garland said last Friday that “states may not ban” the drugs. And conservative justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the Supreme Court should overturn more previous rulings. He specifically said the court should now attack the right to contraception, the right to same sex intimacy and the right to same sex marriage.
Jude Barnhart, who identifies as transgender and non-binary, spoke at a protest in Washington. “They’re not going to stop regulating our bodies. They are going to regulate who is in our beds. They are going to regulate who we marry. They are going to regulate what we can put in our body to prevent ourselves from getting pregnant.”
Clinics were forced to shut their doors immediately after the announcement. There were heartbreaking scenes as women, just minutes from having abortions, were forced to leave waiting rooms. Some now live many thousands of miles from where they are able access abortion. Some will return to the backstreets. Some will die.
One woman at Houston Women’s Clinic in Texas was turned away while waiting to see a doctor. She returned in a desperate attempt for help. “I can’t keep the child, I already have three,” she said. Just five weeks into her pregnancy, she had been informed of a man by a friend who could go to her home to perform an abortion. “She told me that, if things didn’t work out at the clinic, I could always call him”.
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