By Isabel Ringrose
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2811

Anger on the streets after US supreme court wipes out abortion rights

Mass protests and action by organised workers will be needed to overturn this assault
Issue 2811
20 pro-choice protesters calling for abortion rights at the US embassy in London. Placards inlulde "Our bodies, our right to decide"

Calling for abortion rights at the US embassy in London on Friday (Picture: Guy Smallman)

The US supreme court ripped up abortion rights on Friday in a terrifying judgement for women. By six votes to three, nine unelected judges overturned Roe v Wade. This is the 50-year-old federal court ruling that granted abortion up until the end of the second trimester of pregnancy.

There is now no US constitutional right to abortion. States can implement total abortion bans and force women to give birth. That means women will die from botched back-street abortions, and working class women and black women will be hit hardest.

“We hold that Roe must be overruled,” said the majority supreme court opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito. “The constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.”

The fightback has begun in the US. Hundreds chanted “My body, my choice” on the steps of the supreme court. Protests also took place in Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and New York City. There were further gatherings in Florida, Missouri, Georgia and Texas.

In Phoenix, Arizona, police fired tear gas from the state capitol building after demonstrators banged on the doors of the senate. Pro-choice groups planned more protests for Saturday and Sunday.

In Britain, Abortion Rights UK called a protest outside the US embassy in south London on Friday evening. At least 250 angry protesters turned out, with others also protesting in Cardiff and Edinburgh.

Protesters furiously slammed the rancid hypocrisy of the US state for pretending to care about lives. They sent their solidarity to all those fighting back in the US But they were also determined to fight back, and defend abortion right in Britain. 

Protester Jane told Socialist Worker she was “disgusted” by the ruling. “We know women are going to die, just like they have in Malta, Ireland and Poland. The way rights have been snatched away is unbelievable,” she said. “I’m terrified bigots in Britain could be emboldened. The Tories will want to use this as a slippery slope.”

Jane thinks that the effect of former president Donald Trump and the organisation and wealth of anti-choicers are to blame. “They don’t want women to have consequence-free sex. It’s about keeping women in their gender roles. We need to get public attention out there, raise awareness and not take the rights we have for granted,” she said.

Placards read, “Today we grieve, tomorrow we fight” and “Land of the free?”

A statement from Camden Unison union branch secretary Liz Wheatley said, “These bans won’t stop abortions, but they will stop safe abortions. Thousands of poor, black and Latina women face unwanted pregnancies, unsafe procedures and jail sentences. Rich people can fly to wherever they need to sort themselves out. That’s not available to the rest.

“It’s why we have to fight to get the right to choose in the US and fight to defend it here as the bigots will be celebrating tonight. This is a class issue and a union issue. We will fight.”

Speakers remembered when 80,000 workers marched through London to defend abortion rights in 1979 on a demo called by the TUC union federation.

Protesters chanted, “Pro-life, that’s a lie. You don’t care if women die,” and “Not the church, not the state. Women will decide their fate.”

Thirteen US states have “triggered” abortion bans after the reversal of Roe (See below). In total at least 26 states may ban abortion. Republican-led states may also attempt to prosecute those crossing state lines to seek abortions.

As millions were devastated by the news, leaders of anti-abortion groups in the US congratulated  Trump. He nominated three of the six justices who struck down Roe.

Mike Pence, Trump’s former vice-president, praised the supreme court’s ruling, saying, “Today, Life won.” Yet some 85 percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances.

Democrats are already throwing their energy towards the upcoming midterm elections. Their plan is to win a large enough majority in the Senate to pass pro-abortion legislation. 

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said, “This cruel ruling is outrageous and heart-wrenching. But make no mistake—the rights of women and all Americans are on the ballot this November.”

But voting for the Democrats won’t save abortion rights. And some court judges are signalling they may move on to attack contraception and LGBT+ rights. Working class women, and men, have to take to the streets to defend and extend abortion rights.

  • Activists in Britain are organising protests for this weekend. They include Birmingham: Sunday, 1pm, outside Waterstones by the Bull. 

The 13 states with trigger laws that are expected to go into effect against abortion rights

Arkansas
A trigger law is expected to take effect within days and ban almost all abortions, with an exception for saving the “life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency.” Performing an abortion, or attempting to perform one, could lead to ten years in prison or a fine of up to £80,000.

Idaho
A trigger law is expected to go into effect 30 days after the Supreme Court’s ruling and would make providing an abortion punishable by up to five years in prison. Exemptions would be made in the event that an abortion is performed to prevent a pregnant woman from dying, or in cases of rape or incest.

Kentucky
Kentucky passed a bill in 2019 that is expected to go into effect immediately and would ban abortions and make them a felony. There are exceptions when an abortion is needed to prevent injuring or killing a pregnant woman. Rape and incest are not exceptions.

Louisiana
A law in Louisiana is expected to go into effect immediately and would ban anyone from performing an abortion or providing a woman with drugs to interrupt a pregnancy. The state would allow an abortion to prevent serious injury or death, but not for rape or incest.

Mississippi
In Mississippi, a law would require that the state’s attorney general first confirm that Roe v. Wade has been overturned by the Supreme Court before abortions are prohibited. Saving the life of a mother or cases of rape are exceptions.

Missouri
A law in Missouri is expected to go into effect within days of the ruling and would make it a felony to perform an abortion except in the event of a medical emergency.

North Dakota
North Dakota’s law would make performing an abortion a felony unless it is done to save the life of a mother. It is expected to go into effect 30 days after the Supreme Court ruling.

Oklahoma
A bill in Oklahoma would make abortions illegal, punishable by up to ten years in prison or an £80,000 fine, unless the abortion would save the life of a pregnant woman.

South Dakota
A trigger law is expected to go into effect immediately and ban anyone from performing an abortion or providing a woman with drugs that could cause one, including in cases of rape or incest.

Tennessee
A bill is expected to go into effect about 30 days after the Supreme Court ruling. The law would ban abortions in the state, with exceptions to prevent the death or serious injury of a pregnant woman. The law has no exceptions for cases of rape or incest.

Texas
A law banning abortions is expected to go into effect 30 days after the Supreme Court decision, with no exceptions for rape or incest. Abortion would be allowed to prevent a pregnant woman from dying or from a serious injury.

Utah
A law is expected to go into effect within days, banning abortions with exceptions for preventing death or serious injury to the mother, cases of rape or incest, or the possibility of severe birth defects.

Wyoming
A law banning abortions is expected to go into effect within 30 days of the Supreme Court’s decision. The state would allow exceptions in cases of rape or sexual assault, or to prevent the death or “substantial and irreversible” injury of a pregnant woman.

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