by Anita Saville
Ever since the Supreme Court issued its landmark Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973, the forces opposed to reproductive freedom have chiseled, sliced, and hacked away the right to safe and legal abortions. We’ve now reached the point that pro-choice Americans have long dreaded — the actual overturning of Roe by the same institution that spawned it. This is not a drill. The threat is imminent, and it is real.
In December, the Court will hear a case from Mississippi that could ban most abortions after 15 weeks (down from 24 weeks under Roe). The Mississippi law, passed in 2018 but blocked by lower courts, allows no exceptions for rape or incest. Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch says that the Court had been “egregiously wrong” in its Roe decision and Roe should be overturned.
Anti-choice momentum builds in the states.
Meanwhile, state legislatures have introduced or passed more than 330 bills restricting abortion access in 2021 to date, according to NARAL/ProChoice America. This increasingly onerous legislation includes SB 8, the new law in Texas that allows just six weeks to get an abortion, long before most people even know they are pregnant.
“Make no mistake: Anti-choice extremists are paying close attention to Texas to see if they can use SB 8 as a blueprint to roll back abortion access all across the country,” NARAL says. The Texas law also introduces a frightening vigilante feature that offers a bounty of $10,000 to each informer who turns in a person or organization helping someone get an abortion after six weeks.
America is pro-choice.
A whopping 81% of Americans oppose the Texas bounty system, according to a Monmouth University poll from September 20. And poll after poll shows a majority of people in the country supports a right to abortion. Even more frightening than draconian state legislation or the Supreme Court eviscerating reproductive rights we’ve depended on for two generations is the fact that, without ready access to abortion, people will die — especially poor people.
In response to this nightmare scenario, Democrats in the U.S. House passed the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) on September 24. The legislation creates a new federal right to abortion that would invalidate state restrictions — including forced waiting periods and limits on providers that are medically unnecessary. Introduced by Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Veronica Escobar (D-TX) and Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the bill has 47 co-sponsors in the Senate, where it awaits further action. The Biden Administration also strongly supports WHPA.
Pro-choice advocates are staging more than 600 rallies across the nation on October 2 to show support for WHPA and beat back the relentless assaults on reproductive freedom.
With states attacking reproductive rights on hundreds of fronts, federal legislation would provide crucial protection for this freedom. We must do everything in our power to ensure WHPA’s passage. You can start by letting Senators Warren and Markey know that you support WHPA.
There is far too much at stake to sit on the sidelines. We must make clear that we can not — and will not — go back.