Abortion Rights Advocates Protest Around the Country to ‘Stop the Bans'

Supporters of abortion rights are demonstrating in all 50 states as part of the National Day of Action to Stop the Bans

Supporters of abortion rights flooded state capitols, town squares and courthouses around the country Tuesday to protest a wave of new laws restricting women's access to abortion that have passed in several states.

Dozens of groups, including Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, Emily’s List, NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Women’s March, organized more than 400 demonstrations in all 50 states as part of the National Day of Action to Stop the Bans.

"Across the country, we are seeing a new wave of extreme bans on abortion, stripping away reproductive freedom and representing an all-out assault on abortion access," organizers said. “This is Trump’s anti-choice movement… and it’s terrifying, particularly for women of color and low-income women who are most affected by these bans.”

At the flagship rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., lawmakers, including several 2020 presidential candidates, and activists joined hundreds of demonstrators to fight back against what they call an attack on basic rights of women. 

Jessica Pinckney of the National Black Women's Reproductive Justice Agenda said women, especially women of color, need to fight "reproductive oppression," and likened the restrictive abortion laws passed in some states to "forced breeding of enslaved black women."

"It is no coincidence that the parts of this country with the worst maternal mortality rates, the highest instances of voter suppression, and overall troublesome healthcare outcomes for black women are the same states that wish to eliminate our access to abortion care," Pinckney said. 

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand called on women to fight like their lives depend on it — "because it does," she said. The New York democrat said in an interview on MSNBC that the issue is about women having automony over their own body and to take reproductive rights away would turn back the clock decades.

"This issue goes to the humanity of women and whether we have bodily autonomy, whether we can make life or death decisions about our selves, about our families, when we are having children, how many we are having and under what circumstance we will have them," she said.  

Fueled by fury over a string of abortion bans sweeping the country, protestors carried signs, marched and chanted slogans in PhiladelphiaBostonSan DiegoLos Angeles and San Francisco, among other cities.

In recent weeks, several conservative states have mounted new legal challenges to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Governors in Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia have approved bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can happen as early as the sixth week of pregnancy, before many women know they're pregnant.

Missouri lawmakers passed an eight-week ban Friday. Other states, including Louisiana, are considering similarly restrictive laws.

The Alabama law would make it a felony, punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison to perform an abortion in nearly all cases. There would be no punishment for the woman receiving the abortion. It has come under criticism by some conservatives who have expressed discomfort by the lack of exceptions for rape and incest.

The Mississippi law says physicians who perform abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected could face revocation of their state medical licenses. It also says abortions could be allowed after a fetal heartbeat is found if a pregnancy endangers a woman's life or one of her major bodily functions. Legislators rejected efforts to allow exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

President Donald Trump, while not mentioning Alabama's law, wrote in a weekend tweet that he is strongly "pro-life" but favors exceptions.

"As most people know, and for those who would like to know, I am strongly Pro-Life, with the three exceptions - Rape, Incest and protecting the Life of the mother - the same position taken by Ronald Reagan," Trump wrote in a series of tweets.

Rep. Terri Collins, the sponsor of the Alabama law, said the purpose is to challenge Roe and added that Alabama lawmakers can come back and add exemptions if states regain control of abortion access.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker told demonstrators Tuesday in the nation's capital that "legislators in Alabama will not have the last word... just like in the civil rights movement, the governor of Alabama will not have the last word."

None of the laws have actually taken effect, and all are expected to be blocked by the courts as the legal challenges play out with an ultimate eye on the Supreme Court.

Abortion opponents are emboldened by new conservative justices on the Supreme Court. The opponents have pushed new restrictions in several states this year in the hopes that a case will prompt the court to re-evaluate and maybe overturn Roe v. Wade.

Republicans believe the politics of abortion have shifted somewhat in their favor in recent years. But the near-absolutist nature of the most recent state-level bills has sparked concerns inside Trump's team that the issue could energize his critics and female voters, with whom the president has long struggled.

Polling suggests the abortion issue has the potential to stoke political engagement among both parties. The General Social Survey released last year found 64% of Democrats, but just 35% of Republicans, saying a woman should be able to have an abortion for any reason.

The measures have energized supporters of legalized abortion, who say they are digging in for a legal and political fight.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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