Social Issues

US women’s rights groups seek to preserve access to abortion

By Lucia Leal

Washington, Jan 22 (EFE).- The possibility that abortion could be banned in states accounting for half of the women of reproductive age in the United States is forcing the feminist movement to look for ways to maintain access to the procedure, especially for the neediest.

Saturday is the 49th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision establishing the right for women across the US to terminate a pregnancy at any point before the fetus is capable of surviving outside the womb, around 22 weeks into gestation.

When the nation’s highest court found in favor of Norma McCorvey (“Jane Roe”) in her suit against the state of Texas for prohibiting her from having an abortion, the procedure was only legal in 17 of the 50 states and illegal abortions were common.

And women may be facing a similar situation by the middle of this year, as the Supreme Court is expected to rule in June on a challenge to a Mississippi law prohibiting abortion after the 15th week of pregnancy.

During last month’s hearing on that case, the questions and comments from the six conservative justices on the nine-member court indicated they were leaning toward allowing the Mississippi law to stand – and even scrapping Roe v. Wade entirely.

“We are at the precipice of a moment where we know that Roe is going to be overturned by a Supreme Court with a conservative majority,” Sharmin Hossain, director of campaigns for the Liberate Abortion coalition, told Efe.

The end of Roe v. Wade would leave the matter up to the individual states.

In that event, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights think-tank, 26 Republican-controlled states would move to outlaw abortion. Some have already passed abortion bans – known as “trigger laws” – set to take effect automatically if Roe is overturned.

Planned Parenthood says that those 26 states are home to 36 million women of child-bearing age.

“I think that requires us to dream differently and work differently together,” Hossain said, emphasizing the need to transcend divisions among feminist groups based on factors such as size, level of funding and racial makeup.

“Whether or not abortion is legal, we will always fight for that access. We will find ways,” she told Efe Liberate Abortion describes itself as an alliance of more than 125 organizations, from national giants such as Planned Parenthood to small-scale local groups “who have come together to expand power, grow compassion, provide education, and build a groundswell of support for abortion access.”

Noting that Roe v. Wade alone has never been sufficient to ensure reproductive rights for minorities and the poor, the coalition aims for a “world where abortion is affordable and available in all of our communities.”

While President Joe Biden’s administration and the big national organizations are calling on Congress to pass legislation assuring the right to abortion nationwide, Hossain and other activists say the Democrats don’t have the votes to get the bill through the Senate.

Given the political and legal outlook, many in the movement are placing their hopes in expanding access to abortion pills, which can be used up to the 10th week of pregnancy.

In December, the Food and Drug Administration lifted its prohibition on distributing abortion pills by mail, opening the door to patients’ being able to obtain the medication via prescription from virtual appointments with physicians.

But that approach face obstacles in the form of laws in 19 states barring telemedicine appointments regarding abortion.

For now, most women living in states that ban abortion will have to travel to other states to terminate a pregnancy, something that is beyond the means of low-income people.

The people who run abortion clinics in Ohio, one of the states with a trigger law, are already trying to determine how to proceed if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

“In all of this kind of crisis time, it is heartening to see the way our movement is coming together to really think about how we can support people and then change the landscape if there’s a worst-case scenario outcome,” Jen Moore Conrow, executive director of Preterm Ohio, told Efe.

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