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The sign reads "End the filibuster, Congress... Codify Roe"

A demonstrator kneels near a sign in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on May 3, 2022. The Supreme Court is poised to strike down the right to abortion in the US, according to a leaked draft of a majority opinion that would shred nearly 50 years of constitutional protections.  (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

Enough. Now Is the Time to Protect Abortion Rights With Federal Law

This draft Supreme Court decision, if adopted as final, will inflict enormous, needless damage. It is an affront to women, the U.S. Constitution, and human rights.

Robert Weissman

Abortion is health care, and health care is a human right.

The draft Supreme Court decision, if adopted as final, will strip away the constitutional protection of a fundamental human right from all women in the United States. The immediate result will be the imposition of outright abortion bans in 14 states, with many other states likely to follow soon afterwards.

The draft decision does not grapple with the human cost of abortion bans and severe restrictions on access to abortion. Abortion bans would criminalize the seeking and provision of health care, threatening to put people in jail for seeking or providing abortions. Abortion bans will force women and pregnant people to seek abortions in unsafe conditions. Some will die or be injured as a result. Abortion bans will force others to proceed with unwanted pregnancies, with dramatic, life-altering impacts.

The direct human harms and needless personal tragedies that follow directly from abortion bans will concentrate very heavily among low-income people and people of color. Poor or lower-income women constitute 75% of the abortion patient population, according to the Guttmacher Institute. More than half are women of color. Compounding this already severe imbalance, lower-income women in abortion-banning states will have the least ability to circumvent restrictions by traveling out of state.

Human rights are not an abstraction. Protecting human rights protects human dignity. Protecting the right to an abortion helps women to be safe and healthy and gives them the ability to define their own path.

By contrast, this draft Supreme Court decision, if adopted as final, will endanger many women and strip them of their autonomy. Eventually, the decision will be corrected—by the Congress or a future Court. In the meantime, it will inflict enormous, needless damage. It is an affront to women, the U.S. Constitution, and human rights.

It's now time to protect abortion rights in federal law. Winning such a law will almost certainly require setting aside the filibuster, but there's no excuse for arcane and anti-democratic Senate rules to stand in the way of protecting fundamental human rights.


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Robert Weissman

Robert Weissman

Robert Weissman is the president of Public Citizen. Weissman was formerly director of Essential Action, editor of Multinational Monitor, a magazine that tracks corporate actions worldwide, and a public interest attorney at the Center for Study of Responsive Law. He was a leader in organizing the 2000 IMF and World Bank protests in D.C. and helped make HIV drugs available to the developing world.

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