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'A time of great danger': Abortion rights supporters and opponents map next moves

The Supreme Court on Friday ended the constitutional right to abortion in America.

Activists march through Los Angeles in protest against the US Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion.
Activists march through Los Angeles in protest against the US Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion.
Image: PA

A TEXAS GROUP that helps women pay for abortions has halted its work while it evaluates its legal risk under a strict state ban on termination.

In Mississippi, the state’s only abortion clinic continues to see patients while awaiting a 10-day notice that will trigger a ban.

Elected officials across the US have vowed to take action to protect women’s access to reproductive health care, while those against abortion promised to take the fight to new arenas.

Days after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling overturning Roe v Wade ended the constitutional right to abortion in America, emotional protests and prayer vigils turned to resolve as several states enacted bans and both supporters and opponents of abortion rights mapped out their next move.

In Texas, Cathy Torres of the Frontera Fund, a group that helps pay for abortions, said there is a lot of fear and confusion in the Rio Grande Valley near the US-Mexico border, where many people are in the country illegally.

That includes how the state’s abortion law, which bans the procedure from conception, will be enforced. Under the law, people who help patients get abortions can be fined and doctors who perform them could face life in prison.

embedded267601346 Supporters of abortion rights march through Los Angeles. Source: PA

Torres said: “We are a fund led by people of colour, who will be criminalised first. We just really need to keep that in mind and understand the risk.”

She said abortion funds like hers that have paused operations hope to find a way to safely restart their work.

Travel out of state

Tyler Harden, Mississippi director for Planned Parenthood Southeast, said she spent Friday and yesterday making sure people with impending appointments at the state’s only abortion clinic know they do not have to cancel them right away.

Abortions can still take place until 10 days after the state attorney general publishes a required administrative notice.

Mississippi will ban the procedure except for pregnancies that endanger the woman’s life or those caused by rape reported to law enforcement.

The Republican speaker of the Mississippi House, Philip Gunn, said during a news conference on Friday that he would oppose adding an exception for incest. “I believe that life begins at conception,” he said.

Harden said she has been providing information about funds that help people travel out of state to have abortions.

Many in Mississippi were already doing so even before the ruling, but that will become more difficult now that abortions have ended in neighbouring states like Alabama.

Florida is now the nearest “safe haven” state, but Harden warned “that may not be the case for too much longer”.

‘New modern menace’

At the National Right to Life convention in Atlanta, a leader within the anti-abortion group warned attendees yesterday that the Supreme Court’s decision ushers in “a time of great possibility and a time of great danger”.

Randall O’Bannon, the organisation’s director of education and research, encouraged activists to celebrate their victories but stay focused and continue working on the issue.

Specifically, he called out medication taken to induce abortion.

He said: “With Roe headed for the dustbin of history, and states gaining the power to limit abortions, this is where the battle is going to be played out over the next several years.

“The new modern menace is a chemical or medical abortion with pills ordered online and mailed directly to a woman’s home.”

Protests against banning abortion broke out for a second day in cities across the country, from Los Angeles to Oklahoma City to Jackson, Mississippi.

In the LA demonstration, one of several in California, hundreds of people marched carrying signs with slogans like “my body, my choice” and “abort the court”.

Turnout was smaller in Oklahoma City, where about 15 protesters rallied outside the Capitol. Oklahoma is one of 11 states where there are no providers offering abortions, and it passed the nation’s strictest abortion law in May.

‘A wave of emotions’

Marie Adams, 45, who has had two abortions for ectopic pregnancies, called the issue “very personal to me”.

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She added: “I have gone through a wave of emotions in the last 24 hours. It’s upsetting, it’s angry, it’s hard to put together everything I’m feeling right now.

“Half the population of the United States just lost a fundamental right. We need to speak up and speak loud.”

embedded267601105 Campaigners join a pro-choice rally in Chicago. Source: PA

Callie Pruett, who volunteered to escort patients into West Virginia’s only abortion clinic before it stopped offering the procedure after Friday’s ruling, said she now plans to work in voter registration in the hope of electing officials who support abortion rights.

Pruett, executive director of Appalachians for Appalachia, added that her organisation will apply for grants to help patients get access to abortion care, including out of state.

“We have to create networks of people who are willing to drive people to Maryland or to DC,” she said.

“That kind of local action requires organisation at a level that we have not seen in nearly 50 years.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling is likely to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.

Since the decision, clinics have already stopped performing abortions in Arizona, Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Women considering abortions had already been dealing with the near-complete ban in Oklahoma and a prohibition after roughly six weeks in Texas.

In Ohio, a ban on most abortions from the first detectable foetal heartbeat became law when a federal judge dissolved an injunction that had kept the measure on hold for nearly three years.

But in Minnesota, where abortion remains legal, governor Tim Walz signed an executive order shielding people seeking or providing terminals in his state from facing legal consequences in other states.

He has also vowed to reject requests to extradite anyone accused of committing acts related to reproductive health care that are not criminal offences in Minnesota.

“My office has been and will continue to be a firewall against legislation that would reverse reproductive freedom,” he said.

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