Roe Anniversary Sparks Calls for Restoring Federal Right to Abortion

"At every turn we see a new form of hell, brought to us by an extremist Supreme Court and a powerful band of Republican politicians determined to obliterate reproductive freedom," said Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

By Jessica Corbett | 22 January 2024
Common Dreams

(Photo: Ted Eytan / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Progressive advocacy groups, medical professionals, and elected officials across the United States renewed demands for federal action to restore and expand nationwide abortion rights on Monday, the 51st anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling.

“As we look toward what is to come in 2024, we recognize that many will call for the restoration of Roe v. Wade as a standard,” said the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in a statement about the landmark ruling that affirmed the right to abortion. “However, ACOG also recognizes that Roe was imperfect: It was fragile, penetrable, and—for many—inadequate.”

“This year, we will continue to call for the ability of every patient to access an abortion when they need it,” ACOG added. “We call for the ability of clinicians to provide abortion care without threats, penalties, or criminalization. We call for the end of legislative interference in the practice of medicine and for the restoration of privacy in medical treatment and the lives of our patients.”

The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum pointed out that “even with Roe, low-income people were denied the abortion care they needed because of the Hyde Amendment” and “recent immigrants couldn’t get the care they needed because of restrictions on Medicaid eligibility.”

“Barriers to abortion care have always impacted women and gender-expansive individuals, people of color, people with low incomes, and immigrants,” the group continued. “On this anniversary of Roe, we are reminded we need to build a world where everyone can access abortion, no matter who or where they are.”

Since right-wing Supreme Court justices overturned Roe with their June 2022 decision inDobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, anti-choice activists and officials have ramped up efforts to further restrict abortion care, particularly in GOP-dominated states, while patients have been forced to carry unwanted or dangerous pregnancies and clinics in Democrat-controlled states have been flooded with “medical refugees.”

Democratic President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris—who are seeking reelection this year—have taken some steps to protect reproductive freedom in the wake of the Roe reversal, including new actions unveiled Monday, but the ideologically divided Congress has not been able to pass bills to reestablish and boost patients’ rights.

“At every turn we see a new form of hell, brought to us by an extremist Supreme Court and a powerful band of Republican politicians determined to obliterate reproductive freedom across the country,” U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wrote in a Monday op-ed for Glamour.

The senator took aim at both Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court:

Roe v. Wade wasn’t overturned by some accident or surprise. We’re here because Republican extremists have been waging a decadeslong war to take down Roe. They poured billions of dark money into our politics to chip away at our rights. They handpicked extremist judges with proven anti-abortion records. They took over state and local governments. They built an anti-Roe coalition in Congress. And the very second that the Supreme Court gave them the green light, they jumped into action to try to outdo each other by enacting the most severe restrictions possible on abortion access.

The result? Over the last year and a half, more than 20 states have banned or severely restricted abortion access, passed laws criminalizing doctors who perform abortions, or threatened access to pregnancy care, miscarriage care, fertility assistance, and more. Well-organized and well-funded extremists have brought lawsuits to further restrict access, hoping to undermine access in states that are firmly pro-choice.

“Republicans know that the majority of Americans oppose overturning Roe, but they aren’t letting up. Instead, overturning Roe isn’t enough for them—they want more,” Warren warned, stressing that “we have the numbers” and “this is our moment to act.”

“Vote up and down the ballot in 2024 because abortion is on the ballot in nearly every race,” she urged, as voters prepare to weigh in on not only candidates at all levels of politics but also abortion-related ballot measures in several states. “But don’t stop there. Organize: Raise your voice, march in the streets, sign petitions, make calls, and knock on doors to get your neighbors involved. Stand up for democracy: Volunteer for a campaign, run for office yourself, and get your friends to run.”

Warren was far from alone in marking Roe‘s anniversary by reiterating her support for abortion rights and encouraging action by both policymakers and voters. At the congressional level, she was joined by lawmakers including Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the majority leader.

House members demanding abortion rights included Reps. Becca Balint (D-Vt.) Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas), Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Delia Ramirez (D-Ill.), and Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.).

Democratic Govs. Tony Evers of Wisconsin, Kathy Hochul of New York, JB Pritzker of Illinois, Tim Walz of Minnesota, and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan also joined in the calls for boosting reproductive freedom, as did the co-chairs of the Democratic Attorneys General Association, Nevada’s Aaron Ford and Delaware’s Kathy Jennings.

Jennings and Ford said in a statement that “as Democratic AGs, we are proud to be on the frontlines of the fight to protect and expand abortion access, working with President Biden and Vice President Harris to do everything in our power and using every legal tool we have to defend reproductive rights.”

The pair was also among the many critics who called out former President Donald Trump—who appointed three members of the Supreme Court’s current right-wing supermajority and, despite his various legal issues, is the leading Republican candidate to face Biden in November, with support from anti-choice groups.

“As Donald Trump and MAGA extremists, including Republican AGs, seek to prosecute doctors, cut access to abortion medication, and ban abortion nationwide, we are also reminded of the stakes of this year’s election,” the co-chairs said. “We must continue to stand up to any Republican extremist who threatens abortion access and seeks to strip Americans of their fundamental rights.”

In addition to encouraging voters to elect political candidates who support abortion rights this year, some of Monday’s messages were directed at policymakers, particularly in Congress.

Christina Harvey, executive director of the progressive group Stand Up America, highlighted that along with the Roe anniversary, Sunday marked 14 years since the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which opened up the floodgates for corporate spending in U.S. politics.

“Congress can no longer stand by as the court compromises our democracy and our fundamental freedoms,” she said, urging lawmakers to pass bills targeting the nation’s top court. “It’s time to reform this out-of-touch court and force them to focus on protecting Americans, rather than corporations and conservative megadonors.”

Key decisions on abortion protections in 2024

Biden administration announces new abortion initiatives on Roe anniversary

Dark Money: How the Supreme Court’s 6-3 Anti-Choice, Conservative Majority Was Shaped

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