Abortion rights groups are planning nationwide demonstrations on 14 May as the US Supreme Court considers overturning constitutional protections for abortion care affirmed by the landmark 1973 decision in<em>Roe v Wade</em>.
“Bans Off Our Bodies” rallies organised by the Women’s March, Planned Parenthood Action Fund and Planned Parenthood Federation of America, UltraViolet, MoveOn and other abortion rights advocates include marches in New York City, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Chicago and Austin, Texas, with rallies in nearly 400 cities and towns across the US.
The rallies demand support for abortion funds, reproductive health groups, abortion providers, and state- and federal-level protections for abortion care in the wake of a leaked draft opinion from the conservative-majority Supreme Court that signals the end of Roe and its affirming decision in 1992’s Planned Parenthood v Casey.
A formal decision in Dobbs vs Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case at the centre of the Supreme Court’s Roe debate, is expected in the coming weeks.
The rally in Washington DC is expected to draw more than 17,000 people starting at noon near the Washington Monument followed by a march to the Supreme Court.
The Women’s March, which organised mass demonstrations that galvanised millions of women following Donald Trump’s election, has called on supporters to make an “historic, unmistakable statement that we won’t let anyone take away our reproductive rights.”
“The people in your community and across the country deserve the power and freedom to make their own personal reproductive health care decisions,” according to a statement from the organisation. “Together we will send a strong message that abortion access must be protected and supported.”
Without Roe, roughly half of US states are set to quickly or immediately outlaw abortion, including 13 states with so-called “trigger” bans in place designed to take effect without Roe.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Dobbs case in December. Over the following months, a wave of anti-abortion legislation in Republican-led states, emboldened by the forthcoming decision, proposed eliminating abortion access in most cases and criminalising abortion care by making it a felony for providers to see abortion patients.
Within the first few months of the year, legislators in nearly 40 states introduced more than 200 bills to restrict access to abortion.
Meanwhile, four states and Washington DC have codified the right to abortion access, while 12 states explicitly permit abortion care, according to reproductive research organsation Guttmacher Institute.
The US Senate has failed to pass a federal measure, the Women’s Health Protection Act, that would codify Roe, with Democratic Senator Joe Manchin recently joining all 50 Republican senators voting to block debate, effectively killing the legislation.
President Joe Biden blamed Senate Republicans for obstructing the legislation, stressing the urgency to protect “fundamental rights” threatened by the Supreme Court, and said the Senate’s inaction “runs counter to the will of the majority of American people.”
Several recent polls show a majority of Americans support protections for abortion access and upholding the Roe v Wade decision.
“Republicans in Congress – not one of whom voted for this bill – have chosen to stand in the way of Americans’ rights to make the most personal decisions about their own bodies, families and lives,” the president said in a statement.
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