Advocates on both sides marched at rallies on Saturday in Washington and across the country to call attention to the Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling on June 24, 2022, which upended the 1973 Roe v Wade decision.
“I’m absolutely livid that people think that they can interfere with medical decisions between a woman and her doctor,” said Lynn Rust, of Silver Springs, Maryland, at a Women’s March rally in Washington.
In Chicago, duelling rallies gathered on opposite sides of a street outside a downtown federal building. There was shouting but no reports of clashes.
“The elected officials in Illinois are trying to turn us into the abortion capital of the middle of the country,” Peter Breen, vice president of the conservative Thomas More Society, told the Chicago Tribune.
Andy Thayer of the Gay Liberation Network said people in Illinois who were pro-abortion rights can’t be complacent because conservative judges had been appointed to key court positions.
“That’s why we have to be in the streets,” he said.
The Dobbs decision made abortion an unavoidable campaign issue and deepened policy differences between the states.
Most Republican-controlled states have imposed bans, including 14 where laws in effect now block most abortions in every stage of pregnancy, with varying exceptions for the life and health of the women and for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.
Most Democrat-led states have taken steps to protect abortion access, particularly by seeking to protect doctors and others from prosecution for violating other states’ abortion bans.
The issue is far from settled, as demonstrated by Saturday’s rallies as well as the past year’s battles that have played out in courtrooms, on ballots and in state legislatures.
Judges are still weighing whether the bans and restrictions in several states comply with state constitutions.
More voters could soon decide directly on abortion-related policies; last year, they sided with abortion rights in all six states with measures on the ballot. And the issue will be on the ballot in elections this year and next.
Vice President Kamala Harris spoke about the impact of the Dobbs ruling in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“We knew this decision would create a healthcare crisis in America,” she said, pointing to women who were initially denied abortion access even during miscarriages because hospitals were concerned about legal fallout.
The laws restricting abortion “in design and effect have created chaos, confusion and fear,” Harris said.
While there’s far from a universal consensus among voters, public opinion polls have consistently found that the majority oppose the most restrictive bans but also oppose unchecked abortion access at all stages of pregnancy.
President Joe Biden has pushed for a national law to reinstate abortion access. Republicans have called for a national ban.
But with Democrats controlling the presidency and US Senate, and Republicans holding the House, no federal change is imminent.