By Barry Sheppard
[Editor’s note: A US federal judge has temporarily blocked the new Texas abortion legislation, following a legal challenge from Biden’s administration]
On October 2, over two hundred thousand people, majority women, marched to defend abortion rights in over 600 towns and cities across the United States.
The largest were tens of thousands marching on the Supreme Court in Washington D.C. and in the Texas state capital of Austin.
In Houston and San Antonio, Texas, thousands more marched in each city.
Thousands demonstrated in major cities across the United States, including Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles and many more.
Many smaller cities, towns and villages saw actions of tens, hundreds and low thousands.
The geographic spread was impressive.
The hastily organized actions were a response to the Supreme Court’s decision one month earlier that upheld a Texas law banning abortions beyond six weeks of pregnancy, outlawing 85 percent.
The law itself was in violation of the Court’s 1973 decision, and subsequent decisions, legalizing abortions up to about 24 weeks, when it is deemed that the fetus can survive outside the womb.
In September, the Court did not rule on its 1973 ruling, known as Roe vs. Wade, but upheld the Texas law with a bogus argument about “procedure”.
The Supreme Court will now take up another case on December 3 – a Mississippi law that does directly challenge Roe.
The demonstrations also including opposition to this new threat to abolish the 1973 decision.
Many other states with Republican legislatures have imposed restrictions that make it difficult to obtain abortions.
Left news show Democracy Now reported the rallying cry at the actions was “Bans Off Our Bodies”.
The Austin march culminated with most attending the Austin City Limits Music Festival, where one musician after another spoke out. One was the singer Billie Eilish. Her brother Finneas [her producer] pledged 100% of their proceeds to Texas Planned Parenthood.
Interviewed about the October 2 events, Alexis McGill Johnson, CEO of national Planned Parenthood, said that
“activists and leaders and everyday people [are] showing up to demonstrate … that Roe should be the law of the land … access to safe and legal abortion.
“And yet, in state after state, these horrific restrictions and bans are continuing to further erode our ability to access our constitutional right.
“What this weekend did was really just the beginning, to let the courts know, to let lawmakers know that the people will not stand for our rights being encroached upon in such a way.
“It’s amazing that we have artists like Billie Eilish, like Finneas, like Gracie Abrams, shouting from the stage, along with folks like [Houston, Texas rapper] Megan Three Stallion — and people, the one in four women, trans men, non-binary folks who have also had abortions, telling their stories and reducing abortion stigma.”
Asked by Democracy Now host Amy Goodman to explain what’s happened in Texas to Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics, Alexis Johnson said, “Texas is really the opening salvo. We have an unconstitutional six-weeks ban, with a bounty hunter provision attached to it … it’s effectively rendered Roe meaningless.”
Her reference to “bounty hunters” refers to the fake “procedure” argument the Supreme Court’s majority used to uphold the Texas law. That law doesn’t give the state government the enforcement power, but enables anyone in the U.S. to sue anyone in Texas for violating the law, or anyone who in any way supports such violations, for $10,000 or more.
Johnson explained that clinic hotlines have become “crisis hotlines —people are calling panicked, trying to figure out where to go, trying to get in before six weeks.
“Texas already has a number of restrictions that complicate access to abortion: 24-hour mandated waiting periods, mandated [anti-abortion] counseling and ultrasounds [forcing women to look at pictures of their fetuses].
“Eighty five percent of our patients in Texas were coming to us after six weeks, and it means that those who can travel out of state are now having to identify places in Oklahoma, in New Mexico. [As a result of this increased demand] folks in Oklahoma, New Mexico are having to travel outside of their own states, and it’s having a tremendous impact, a ripple effect.”
Goodman asked, “The disproportionate impact on Black and Brown people, overall lower-income people?”
“Completely,” Johnson replied. “What this last year [of the Covid pandemic] has laid bare is that our healthcare crisis is a function of systematic racism.
“The impact that is having on these clinics, as well as people who have to take off work. They have to plan to travel. We had one patient who traveled a thousand miles to Aurora, Colorado, by herself, because she didn’t know if someone driving with her out of Texas would be cause for them to get in trouble. It would not, but she didn’t know that.
“People are making these calculations where they can, but that impact of having to go out of state is certainly going to fall disproportionately on people of color communities.”
Amy Goodman said, “Let’s talk about the Mississippi law that will be heard, the oral arguments [before the Supreme Court] on December 1. This is the one that many see as the greatest threat to Roe vs. Wade overall, although you can tell us first the numbers across the country where it’s virtually being overturned.”
“I think you are absolutely right,” Alexis Johnson replied. “I think what Texas has the potential to do is usher in a de facto end to Roe, because there are 25 other states that are looking quite closely at their ability to engage in copycat legislation to Texas, starting as early as the next legislative session in 2022.
“What we have in the Mississippi law, Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, is a 15-week ban. Jackson Women’s Health is the sole provider of abortion in Mississippi. This 15-year ban is another clear violation of our constitutional right to an abortion.”
The state of Mississippi is appealing a lower court ruling that found the law unconstitutional under Roe.
“That the Supreme Court has taken up this case, that it is willing to consider overturning 50 years of precedent, makes it, I think, incredibly momentous.”
Following the upholding of the Texas law, polls indicate that the Court’s approval rating has dropped to a new low of about 40 percent.
There are six far right judges out of nine on the Court (three appointed by Trump who stated he would only nominate judges opposed to Roe). In response to its approval rating dropping, two of the six have publicly and vociferously complained that there is a campaign to portray the Court’s majority as biased.
If Roe were overturned, that would leave it up to the legislatures in all 50 states to adopt their own laws regarding abortion, creating a patchwork quilt of conflicting laws state by state, with some outlawing abortions altogether, others with severe restrictions, on over to states where most abortions would be legal.
In that case, there will be a massive response, which the October 2 marches indicated would happen.
If the court doesn’t overturn it, there will an outcry on the anti-abortion side, a key part of the Republican base, especially among white Christian evangelicals.