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An abortion-rights activist speaks following Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Jacquelyn Martin
Abortion

'A step backward for women's rights': America reacts as Roe v. Wade is overturned

The decision has been met with mixed reaction from civilians, lawmakers and politicians on either side of the political divide.

LAST UPDATE | 24 Jun 2022

THE US SUPREME Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that have been in place for nearly 50 years in a decision by its conservative majority to overturn Roe v Wade.

The ruling, which is is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half of US states, was the culmination of decades of efforts by abortion opponents, made possible by an emboldened right side of the court that has been fortified by three appointees of former president Donald Trump.

It comes more than a month after the stunning leak of a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito indicating the court was prepared to take this momentous step.

In the majority opinion, Justice Alito said “abortion presents a profound moral issue on which Americans hold sharply conflicting views.

“The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion,” he said.

The decision has been met with mixed reaction from civilians, lawmakers and politicians on either side of the US political divide, with some celebrating the move while others see it as an attack on women’s freedoms.

Immediately after the 1973 ruling was overturned, both pro-life and pro-choice activists outside the court reacted with joy and heartbreak. 

supreme-court-abortion An abortion-rights activist reacts outside the Supreme Court in Washington. Jacquelyn Martin Jacquelyn Martin

supreme-court-abortion A group of pro-life supporters celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington. Jacquelyn Martin Jacquelyn Martin

In an address from the White House this evening, US President Joe Biden said it is “a sad day for the court and for the country”.

This landmark case protected a woman’s right to choose, her right to make intensely personal decisions with her doctor, free from any interference of politics. It reaffirmed basic principles of equality, that women have the power to control their own destiny, and it reinforced a fundamental right of privacy. A right of each of us to choose how to live our lives.
Now, with Roe gone, let’s be very clear. The health and life of women in this nation are now at risk.

Biden said the three Supreme Court justices appointed by former US president Donald Trump were “at the core of today’s decision to upend the scale of justice and eliminate a fundamental right for women in this country.”

He also said that the only way to secure abortion rights in the US is for Congress “to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade as federal law”.

He said he was stunned by the decision, expressing disbelief that doctors will be criminalised “for fulfilling their duty to care”, and that women will be forced to carry a child to term after getting pregnant as a result of being raped. 

Imagine a young woman having to carry a child as a consequence of incest. No option. And as is often the case, poor women are going to be hit the hardest.

Biden committed to doing “everything in my power” to protect women’s rights, and asserted his administration will protect women’s access to travel for abortion and medication.

He concluded his address by saying that this decision ”must not be final word”.

“Congress must act, and with your vote, you can act, You can have the final word. This is not over.”

biden-supreme-court-abortion US President Joe Biden speaks at the White House after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Andrew Harnik Andrew Harnik

supreme-court-abortion Abortion-rights protesters outside the Supreme Court following the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. AP / PA Images AP / PA Images / PA Images

Shortly after the ruling was announced, former US president Barack Obama tweeted that the decision has “relegated the most intensely personal decision someone can make to the whims of politicians and ideologues – attacking the essential freedoms of millions of Americans”.

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “Most Americans believe the decision to have a child is one of the most sacred decisions there is, and that such decisions should remain between patients and their doctors.

Today’s Supreme Court opinion will live in infamy as a step backward for women’s rights and human rights.

In a statement, Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren, who has been vocal about protecting a woman’s right to have an abortion, said Republican politicians have “finally forced their unpopular agenda on the rest of America”. 

“They have decided that the government – not the person who is pregnant – should make a private health care decision and deny women the right to control their own bodies and futures,” she said.

“But these extremists will not have the final word. Democrats have tools to fight back, from legislation in Congress to execute orders from the President to initiatives at the state and local level – we just need to use them.

We are angry – angry and determined. We will not go back. Not now. Not ever.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi deemed the decision “a slap in the face” to women.

“Because of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, the Republican Party and their supermajority on the Supreme Court, American women today have less freedom than their mothers,” Pelosi said. 

New York Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that banning abortions will not make them go away, but will make them “more dangerous”.

People will die because of this decision. And we will never stop until abortion rights are restored in the United States of America.

On the other side of the debate, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said the decision to overturn the ruling “courageous and correct”.

In a statement, he said: “For 50 years, states have been unable to enact even modest protections for unborn children. More than 90% of Europe restricts abortion on demand after 15 weeks, but every state in America has been forced to allow it more than a month past that, after a baby can feel pain, yawn, stretch, and suck his or her thumb.

“Judicial activists declared that every state had to handle abortion like China and North Korea and no state could handle it like France or Germany. Not anymore. Now the American people get their voice back.”

supreme-court-abortion A group celebrates the decision outside the Supreme Court in Washington. AP / PA Images AP / PA Images / PA Images

supreme-court-abortion An abortion-rights activist wears tape reading 2nd Class Citizen on their mouth as they protest outside the Supreme Court in Washington. Jacquelyn Martin Jacquelyn Martin

The Governor of Texas Greg Abbott said the decision was “correct” and that the state will “always fight to save every child from the ravages of abortion”, while Texas Senator Ted Cruz said it is “nothing short of a massive victory for life”.

“This is a momentous day, and yet the fight for life doesn’t end with the Dobbs decision. It simply begins a new chapter,” he said.

I’ve been proud to stand for life in the U.S. Senate, and I will continue to do so as we navigate the path ahead.

In a series of tweets, former US Vice President Mike Pence hinted that further action could be taken.

The Republican politician praised the court’s decision, saying it has “given the American people a new beginning for life”.

“Now that Roe v. Wade has been consigned to the ash heap of history, a new arena in the cause of life has emerged and it is incumbent on all who cherish the sanctity of life to resolve that we will take the defense of the unborn and support for women in crisis pregnancies to every state Capitol in America,” he said.

Having been given this second chance for Life, we must not rest and must not relent until the sanctity of life is restored to the center of American law in every state in the land. 

Florida Senator Marco Rubio said the Supreme Court has “correctly returned the power to regulate abortion to the states”.

“I will soon introduce a proposal to support mothers and their babies so that every child has a real opportunity to pursue the promise of America,” he said.

Protests are already being organised by Planned Parenthood in several states.

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