Reproductive rights and abortion bans prompt nationwide marches, protests
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., speaks at rally sponsored by Planned Parenthood Federation of America to oppose legislation that would limit legal abortion, on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 11, 2013. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Faced with a right-wing GOP-named Supreme Court majority and red states eagerly trying to force women back into the days of back alleys and coat hangers for abortion, protectors of reproductive rights are taking to the streets in mass protests the week of May 20.

The first of 250 “Stop Abortion Bans Day of Action” protests from coast to coast will be at 5 p.m. today at Federal Plaza in Chicago’s Loop, with a potential march up Wabash Avenue to the Trump Tower afterwards.

“At statehouses, town squares, and courthouses across the nation, we will show up to speak out and fight back against this unconstitutional attempt to gut Roe and punish women. Together we say: Stop the bans,” declared the Frederick, Md., Women’s Coalition for Action, which organized the protest there.

Further protests will follow the entire week, including one at the U.S. Supreme Court at noon May 21 and a second in Chicago on May 23. Planned Parenthood says the demonstrations will occur in major cities and state capitals as well, from Anchorage and Honolulu to Tallahassee and Miami.

Groups ranging from and Planned Parenthood’s political arm to Jobs With Justice, the Service Employees, the National Partnership for Women and Families, the Sierra Club and the National Domestic Workers Alliance organized the events.

They plan to bring hundreds of thousands of participants – women, men, gay, straight, bisexual, transgender and more – to demand the U.S. not return to the days when women had to furtively seek abortions, often at risk to their health.

“On Tuesday, May 21, we’re joining progressive allies and thousands of Americans to show up for our reproductive rights,” NDWA, which represents thousands of low-income domestic workers, tweeted.

The risk to women, plus criminalization of abortion – including the jailing of women and their doctors – is exactly what several new state laws, notably the ones in Alabama and Missouri, seek to do. GOP-dominated red state legislatures and governors have passed all the laws.

The laws and the protests are aimed at the GOP five-man High Court majority, notably the two newest justices nominated by right-wing GOP President Donald Trump, Neil Gorsuch and, especially, Brett Kavanaugh. Women’s groups opposed both due to the judges’ rabid attacks on reproductive rights.

Right-wing drafters of the anti-reproductive rights laws, notably in Alabama, openly hope for lower courts to strike them down so that they can appeal the cases to the High Court and let its Republicans overturn the Roe v. Wade decision setting parameters for when women, consulting with their doctors, may choose reproductive rights and abortion.

“Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, and just last Friday, Missouri,” passed extreme abortion bans, said Planned Parenthood CEO Dr. Leana Wen. “These bans are wildly out-of-touch with public opinion. Support for abortion access is at a record high — more than 7 in 10 Americans do not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned. This day of action will send a loud and clear message to politicians: Banning abortion is dangerous, deeply unpopular, and people will not stand for it.”

“Women are outraged. Politicians have absolutely no place in our personal health decisions. Now more than ever, we must unite against this unprecedented attack on our fundamental rights and freedoms. It is time for women, men, and all people to declare that reproductive health care is health care and health care is a human right. We will stand together to defend our right to safe, legal abortion. Because we are in the fight of our lives,” Dr. Wen explained.

“The final battle to save abortion rights is on,” MoveOn declared.

“Less than two weeks ago, Georgia joined Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, Iowa, Louisiana, Utah, and North Dakota in banning abortion at six weeks or earlier, before most women know they are pregnant.”

“Then last week, Alabama banned all abortion from the moment of conception — with no exceptions, even for child rape victims, punishable with 99 years in prison” for doctors who perform abortions.

“And on Friday, the Missouri legislature voted to ban abortion at just eight weeks, with one Republican claiming that most sexual assaults are ‘consensual rapes.’ Meanwhile, abortion bans have been introduced in at least 28 states, and the Senate is holding hearings on a nationwide, 20-week ban.” The Texas legislation, MoveOn said, would even include the death penalty, though it didn’t say for whom.

“If you think you’re safe because you live in a blue state, think again. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham” a South Carolina Republican, “has already started holding hearings on his nationwide, 20-week abortion ban.”

“Donald Trump and the radical right won’t stop until all abortion is banned — or until they pay such a political price they don’t dare continue. That’s why we must get out in the streets now to put anti-choice politicians on notice that they will NOT get away with this.”

“This is not a drill…which is why it’s imperative we fight back NOW.”

Reproductive rights are particularly important to women of color, Renee Bracey Sherman wrote in Vox.

“If abortion — and potentially, by extension, miscarriage — is criminalized, we already know who will be harmed first: The same communities already being jailed for living in our nation without the right immigration papers, the pregnant asylum seekers being shackled by U.S. marshals, the black and brown bodies scrutinized by police in our neighborhoods, and the same communities chastised by politicians for having too many children.

“The U.S. criminal justice system has always unjustly penalized communities of color…The majority of people who have abortions are people of color. This is why the fight for reproductive justice is more than the right to an abortion: it’s about ensuring that families are able have the rights, resources, and safety nets to ensure families can truly thrive.”

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.