“Don’t touch our bodies!”: In the United States, hundreds of demonstrations to defend the right to abortion

Pink hair and a nose piercing, she proudly holds up her “Let’s talk about the elephant in my womb” sign. The elephant is the symbol of the Republican Party. “I was born in 1982 and I’ve never known anything other than Roe v. Wade. How can we accept a regression of our rights acquired fifty years ago because of conservatives who want to control our bodies and hinder our freedom?” Chelsea gets angry. “Women fought for us in the 1970s. Today we must honor them by resisting!”

Read also: In the United States, the battle over abortion exacerbates divisions

More than 450 events

In New York, as in Washington, Chicago, Austin and Los Angeles, thousands of demonstrators marched on Saturday to defend the right to abortion, during a day of action under the slogan “Bans Off Our Bodies” ( “Hands off our bodies!”). In the Big Apple, Chuck Schumer, the leader of the Senate Democrats, was among the protesters who crossed the Brooklyn Bridge before meeting in a square in Manhattan, in front of the Supreme Court of New York. The new mayor of New York, Eric Adams, was also present. In all, more than 450 demonstrations broke out across the country.

The object of anger: the May 2 leak of a document confirming that the Supreme Court is preparing to overturn Roe v. Wade of 1973, which allows women to abort up to the 23rd week of pregnancy. The disclosure of the document written by Judge Samuel Alito and published by the media Politico provoked strong reactions.

This scenario, if it is confirmed, is however not a surprise. It was predictable: the highest court in the country is now made up of 6 conservative judges out of 9, including 3 who were imposed by former President Donald Trump. The Court will confirm its decision by the end of June. It is Mississippi which is at the origin of the debate: a clinic of the State rebelled against a law prohibiting abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Powerless Democrats in Congress

If Roe v. Wade is emptied of his substance, 50 years of jurisprudence will fly away. Without protection at the federal level, the 50 American states can each enact and apply their own legislation, without the Supreme Court getting involved. Thirteen states already have laws ready to go into effect –trigger laws– as soon as Roe v. Wade falls. And around twenty others are advocating restrictions, sometimes going as far as a total ban on abortion, even in cases of rape or incest.

The Democrats have tried in Congress to transpose Roe v. Wade in federal law, but without success, the required majority not being reached, because of the opposition in block of the republicans. It is therefore at the level of the States that they will wage battle. With the hope of taking advantage of it in this crucial midterm election year, where, so far, the Republicans seemed well on their way to regaining a majority in Congress.

Abortion tourism

Like California, New York is one of the progressive states that risk attracting women prevented from having abortions in other states and forced to travel thousands of miles. Its specialized clinics should expect higher attendance. “We will not let the Supreme Court trample on our rights. New York is here for you!” insisted State Attorney General Letitia James during a recent demonstration. She has never hidden having herself had an abortion. New York has had the right to abortion enshrined in its Constitution since 1919 and allows abortions for up to 24 weeks. But above all, a fund has just been set up to provide financial support to women in precarious situations who wish to have an abortion. Saturday, Letitia James was once again among the protesters.

Helen sighs on a bench in Manhattan’s Foley Square. Around her, the slogans are still ringing. Protesters continue to arrive from the Brooklyn Bridge, shouting “My body, my choice!”. Or “This is what democracy looks like!”. Helen came with her husband. “We have been witnessing attacks on abortion for years. This right ended up wavering. The extreme politicization of our Supreme Court, which Trump has managed to anchor even further to the right, raises fears of the worst. Who will be their next targets? Marriage for all?”.

In Washington, Barbara Lee, elected to the House of Representatives, was among the speakers, determined to fight for all women to have access to “safe and legal” abortions. The Californian herself had an abortion, at the age of 15, in Mexico, clandestinely. The Supreme Court is now protected by a fence. And the conservative judges benefit from increased security: demonstrators have organized vigils in front of their homes. Other events are planned for the next few days. Because, according to the polls, the majority of Americans are in favor of keeping Roe v. Wade.

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