Need to Affirm Women's Right to Abortions

From Coast to Coast, U.S. Women Protest Reversal of Roe v. Wade

– Peggy Morton –

Since a draft opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) to overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked on May 2, large rallies have been taking place in cities across the U.S. Hundreds of thousands of women across the U.S. have been taking a stand and speaking out to demand their right to health care and their specific women's rights as the human beings responsible for giving birth and nurturing children. The response to the leak of the draft SCOTUS decision has been swift and strong. A national Day of Action was held on May 14 with more than 380 events held from Maine to Hawaii. Protesters gathered in New York, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, Austin and Chicago, as well as at hundreds of events across the country.

Last October, actions took place in no less than 660 cities large and small, affirming, as the organizers said, that "we'll never let go of our vision of reproductive justice; for unfettered abortion access and everything we need to support and grow our families to thrive and live healthy lives."

U.S. political news outlet Politico published a copy of an initial draft opinion written by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, a Republican appointee. That opinion suggests a majority of justices are prepared to overrule Roe v. Wade -- the 1973 decision that essentially found that the right to privacy extends to reproductive choices like an abortion and allowed legal abortions in the U.S.

The leaked draft opinion claims the 1973 decision was constitutionally dubious and "egregiously wrong from the start" because its reasoning was "exceptionally weak." It argues that the 1973 decision has had "damaging consequences" by dividing the nation into anti-abortion and pro-choice factions and robbing state officials of the power to regulate the practice. It returns the issue to state legislatures many of which have been passing laws which severely restrict or completely ban abortion. About half of all U.S. states have legislation ready to impose broad abortion bans, and many states have been increasingly restricting access to abortion for many years.

Roe v. Wade is known as a landmark decision regarding women's reproductive rights. The Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution of the United States protects a pregnant woman's right to choose to terminate a pregnancy without excessive government restriction. In doing so it struck down a number of U.S. federal and state laws.

Prior to Roe v. Wade, which overturned laws making abortion illegal, women suffered deaths and serious medical complications from "backstreet" abortions, while a taboo was imposed on even discussing the consequences of this violation of rights. This was also the case in Canada and remains so in many countries. The movement of women smashed the silence, brought this assault on women's rights out into the open and declared that the right of women to decide must be upheld.

The leaked draft decision of the Supreme Court relates to a Mississippi law, which came before the Supreme Court in December 2021. The law makes abortions illegal after 15 weeks, even in cases of rape and incest. Other states, especially in the South and Midwest have also limited abortion access. Twenty-two states have laws banning abortions that would go into effect if the SCOTUS strikes down Roe v. Wade.

In September 2021, Texas enacted a law which bans all abortions after about six weeks, when most women will not even know they are pregnant. This also includes pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, even when the victim is a child. The law allows private citizens to sue anyone who "aids or abets" a prohibited abortion. If a private citizen wins a lawsuit, they are entitled to $10,000 and the costs of attorney fees from those who they sued.

The Texas and Mississippi laws are part of broad government attacks on women and children and their health care rights, including unsafe conditions in schools, and lack of child care, and measures targeting the many forced into detention camps at the border and elsewhere, and more.

The right for a woman to decide when and if she will be a mother belongs to women. Rights belong to the holder by virtue of their being. The courts have the duty to uphold that right, and legislatures to enact laws providing that right with a guarantee.

At the heart of the ongoing fight is the human right to health care for all, with meeting the needs of women and children central to providing that care. This includes the right to family planning including abortion; maternal care during pregnancy and post-partum (after birth), paid maternity leave, arrangements needed by lactating mothers during their working hours, and the right which belongs to all of free, publicly funded and delivered, high-quality health care.

Women across the U.S. are determined to reverse this broad assault on rights. They are speaking out in their own name and affirming their rights by making their claims on government to meet them.

This article was published in
Volume 52 Number 5 - May 21, 2022

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