“It’s the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and if we don’t fight like hell it could very well be the last,” said one campaigner, who called on U.S. lawmakers to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act.

By Brett Wilkins, Common Dreams

As reproductive freedom is imperiled by the U.S. Supreme Court’s right-wing supermajority and Republican-led state legislatures, advocates rallied in Washington, D.C. on Saturday—the 49th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling—while abortion rights supporters called on lawmakers to pass legislation to codify Roe as the “law of the land.”

“It’s difficult to think that my daughter’s generation may not have the same freedoms as mine or my mother’s.”

Rights defenders gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court in the nation’s capital, where Sam Goldman of Rise Up for Abortion Rights and Refuse Fascism led demonstrators in chanting, “We refuse to let the Supreme Court decimate women’s rights and their humanity.”

“We refuse to go back,” the crowd roared. “No surrender! Abortion on demand and without apology!”

“It’s the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and if we don’t fight like hell it could very well be the last,” Goldman warned.

Nancy Northrup, CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement Saturday that “it seems Roe is just barely hanging on by a thread.”

Women at a protest hold signs that read
Photo by Lorie Shaull

“The United States stands in stark contrast to the rest of the world, where we’ve seen a trend of liberalizing abortion laws over the last 25 years,” she noted. “Most recently… Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled to decriminalize abortion. South Korea lifted its 68-year-old abortion ban earlier last year. In 2018, the people of Ireland overwhelmingly voted to repeal the country’s constitutional ban on abortion.”

“The United States is an outlier, moving down a dangerous and backward path of regression of rights protections,” Northrup added.

Progressive U.S. lawmakers joined activists in calling for the codification of reproductive rights by passage of the House-approved Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), which, as Right to Decide CEO Dr. Raegan McDonald Mosley explains, establishes “a right to abortion care across the country” while enshrining “the right for people to receive abortion care without medically unnecessary restrictions, such as mandatory waiting periods, biased counseling, and mandatory ultrasounds.”

Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) tweeted Saturday: “It’s difficult to think that my daughter’s generation may not have the same freedoms as mine or my mother’s. Reproductive justice is essential to social equity and an individual’s economic security. The Senate must act by passing the Women’s Health Protection Act.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted that “abortion is a constitutional right, period. If men were the ones giving birth, I doubt that this would be in question. We must stand up and defend a woman’s right to control her own body. We must pass legislation that codifies Roe v. Wade as the law of the land.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted: “I grew up in an America where abortions were illegal, but those with resources still got them. Roe v. Wade saved lives and helped millions take control of their future. We can’t let Republicans turn back the clock. We need to pass #WHPA and codify Roe.”

Saturday also saw large anti-abortion rallies and marches across the U.S., with Roe hanging in the balance as the Supreme Court will rule this year on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case involving Mississippi’s 15-week ban.

According to Planned Parenthood, more than 100 laws restricting reproductive freedom were enacted in 2021. Among the most draconian of these is Texas’ six-week abortion ban, which allows no exceptions for incest or rape, and offers incentives for vigilantes who report violations of the law.

“If Roe v. Wade is struck down, it’s estimated that 26 states would immediately move to outlaw abortion with ‘trigger laws’ that make abortion immediately illegal,” McDonald Mosley said in a statement Saturday.

“Other states have pre-Roe abortion bans on the books or have legislatures that would immediately pass laws to ban abortion,” she added. “The result would be devastating for those who lack the resources to travel to a state where abortion remains legal.”

In 2022, Republican-led state legislatures in ArizonaFlorida and West Virginia have introduced bills that roughly copycat Mississippi’s and Texas’ bans.

Acknowledging that transgender and gender nonbinary people also get pregnant and have abortions, Rise Up for Abortion Rights said:

The attack on abortion rights is part of a patriarchal Christian fascist program that takes aim at contraception as well as LGBTQ rights.

Denying the right to abortion hits poor women, and especially Black and other women of color, with vicious consequence—tightening the chains of both white supremacy and the subjugation of women.

Denying the right to abortion forces women to bear children against their will. This does grotesque physical, emotional, societal, and psychic violence to women by reducing them to baby-making machines! Compelling women to carry unwanted and/or dangerous pregnancies hijacks their bodies, their safety, their lives, their sexual autonomy, their aspirations and accomplishments, and their life-long relations in the service of patriarchal domination.

While numerous GOP-led states continue their assault on reproductive freedom, others—notably California and Vermont—are moving to protect reproductive rights via legislation or policy implementation.

“It is fundamentally wrong to have access to safe and essential abortion care dependent on what state you live in and/or how much money you make,” said Power to Decide’s McDonald Mosley. “It is time we pass the Women’s Health Protection Act.”

“We urge the immediate passage of this critical legislation in order to prevent states from turning the clock back on all the progress made since Roe v. Wade was decided,” she added. “We must also demand that state policymakers protect coverage and access to abortion care. This is how we can ensure that all people can achieve reproductive well-being.”