Abortion-rights activists

Abortion-rights activists wait for state lawmakers to arrive before a Senate vote on a ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy at the South Carolina Statehouse on May 23, 2023 in Columbia, South Carolina.

(Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

A Year After Dobbs, Advocates Demand Expanded Court, Congressional Action to Protect Abortion Rights

"We are the majority!" said one abortion rights leader. "It's time to take our court back. It's time to take our government back."

As rights advocates took stock on Saturday of the catastrophic effects of the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade exactly a year after the court's right-wing majority gutted abortion rights for millions, campaigners rallied to demand bold action from the Democratic Party and the White House to protect reproductive freedom.

"Republicans are across the way right now lobbying for a national abortion ban with their hero Mike Pence," said NARAL Pro-Choice America President Mini Timmaraju, despite the fact that "poll after poll after poll has shown Americans are with us. They don't want a national abortion ban, they want Congress to codify abortion access."

NARAL is among the rights groups that have demanded the passage of the Women's Health Protection Act (WHPA), which was obstructed last year when right-wing Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia joined the Republican Party in blocking it. The law would affirm the right to abortion care at the federal level.

The Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling last year, handed down just weeks after the WHPA was blocked, paved the way for at least 14 states to ban most abortions. Republicans including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and former Vice President Mike Pence, who is running for president in 2024, have called for a nationwide 15-week abortion ban.

After leading the crowd in a chant of, "We are the majority!" Timmaraju said, "It's time to take our court back. It's time to take our government back."

Along with Planned Parenthood and other national rights organizations, NARAL in recent months has joined the push for an expansion of the Supreme Court, which has been done by Congress seven times in the past.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, Vice President Kamala Harris on Saturday addressed a packed house at the Grady Cole Center, where she noted that "more than 350 new laws to restrict these freedoms and the right to have access to reproductive healthcare" have been proposed or passed in states, leaving 23 million women of reproductive age living in states with extreme abortion bans.

"Extremist Republicans in Congress have proposed to ban abortion nationwide. But I have news for them. We're not having that. We're not standing for that. We won't let that happen. And by the way, the majority of Americans are with us," said Harris. "The United States Congress must put back in place what the Supreme Court took away."

The effects of abortion bans have been well-documented in the past 12 months, as pregnant patients have been denied care by doctors fearing prosecution, even as their pregnancies threatened their health. A survey of OB/GYNs this week found that 68% of doctors said Dobbs has made managing pregnancy-related medical emergencies more difficult and 64% said the ruling has worsened pregnancy-related mortality.

As the anniversary drew near this week, President Joe Biden signed an executive order expanding access to birth control and Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) took action to block county prosecutions of people who have abortions. A 15-week abortion ban is in effect in Hobbs's state.

Amnesty International USA national programs director Tarah Demant said that even in states where bans are not in effect, "a climate of fear is being purposefully sewn to restrict women, girls, and people who can get pregnant from finding legal abortion care."

"Yet despite these coordinated and vitriolic attacks on our rights, Americans continue to overwhelmingly support access to safe and legal abortion, multiple states have added new protections, and activists across states continue to advocate for their rights," said Demant. "Abortion is a human right and basic healthcare, and activists across the country and around the world are more determined than ever to ensure that people across the USA will be able to access this right."

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