Emotional scenes unfolded outside the US Supreme Court on Friday as women, abortion advocates and pro-choice protesters contended with the reality of a future without Roe v Wade.
Speaking toThe Independent in front of the heavily guarded court, one woman broke down in tears as she told how the justices’ decision to overturn abortion rights showed how far the United States has been “regressing”.
“I’m just here to protect all our human rights,” she said, breaking down in tears. “This is supposed to be an advanced country but we’re really just regressing at this point because people are going to die.
“And we have to stand up to that… abortion is a human right, it’s healthcare and without it people are going to die.”
She hit out at lawmakers who failed to “stick up for” the people who elected them to represent Americans but admitted she was “not surprised” by what had happened as the nation has been in “a downward swing for the last six years”.
“The people that we voted for are not sticking up for us,” she said. “And the laws in this country are going to have serious impacts on all of our citizens.”
She added: “Even if it doesn’t make a difference… we’ve got to do as we can.”
One mother and her daughter had come to the protest together, describing how they were in disbelief that the fight for reproductive rights was still going on in 2022.
“I never would have thought that when my daughter was this age this is something that we would have to be fighting for,” said the mother. “It’s not possible for women to have social, finanical and phsyical equality when they cannot control when and how they have children.”
Her daughter told The Independent she struggles to stand up for long due to a disability but was determined to show up at the court because she was “angry”.
She said she was feeling less disheartened after joining the protest and seeing all the people wanting to fight for the right to abortion.
Another woman told The Independent that the justices had “lied” to the American people about not overturning the court, slamming the decision to send abortion decisions back to the states.
However, she said she was feeling “optimistic” for the future generations, saying she believes they are more engaged in politics and will push for change.
A small number of anti-abortion demonstrators also descended on the Supreme Court including right-wing agitators Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman who shouted through megaphones for women to “go back to the kitchen”.
After trying to rile up the crowd, they were soon peacefully escorted away from the scene.
On Friday morning, the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v Wade ruling, ending the fundamental right to abortion access for millions of women across America.
In the case of Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the nation’s highest court ruled 6-3 in favour of a Mississippi law that outlaws abortion at 15 weeks of pregnancy.
All six conservative justices voted to uphold the state’s abortion restriction and, in the process, five – excluding Chief Justice John Roberts – voted to strike down the 1973 Roe ruling which guaranteed a constitutional right to abortion and the 1992 Planned Parenthood v Casey ruling which had further cemented that right.
In their historic decision, the nine-person court has effectively backpedaled on the reproductive rights of the American people by 50 years and placed the power over women’s bodies in the hands of the states.
While the leak of a draft opinion last month revealed the court’s plan to overturn Roe, the decision was somewhat unexpected as Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh both swore under oath during their confirmation hearings that they believed the ruling was settled legal precedent.
Abortion instantly became illegal across several Republican-led states including South Dakota, Louisiana and Kentucky after they implemented “trigger laws” to ban the procedure as soon as Roe was overturned.
The three liberal justices wrote in their dissent that the ruling marked the end of women being “free and equal citizens” in the US.
“With sorrow – for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection – we dissent,” reads the opinion from Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.
“Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens,” they wrote.
In the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that Roe and Casey were “egregiously wrong” and “must be overruled”.
“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” he wrote.
“Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences.
“And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division.”
President Joe Biden addressed the nation from the White House, calling it a “sad day” for the nation and vowing to do “everything in my power” to protect access to abortion across the country.
“The health and the life of women in this nation are now at risk,” he said. “It’s a sad day for the court and for the country.”
He urged voters to “make their voices heard” by electing officials in the midterms who “who will codify a woman’s right to choose into federal law once again”.
The final ruling comes over a month after a draft majority opinion was leaked back on 2 May, revealing the court’s intentions to end five decades of abortion rights.
Following the leak, several Democrat-led states moved to strengthen abortion protections while Republican states implemented “trigger laws” to ban or severely limit abortion access as soon as the ruling was handed down.
Around half of all US states are expected to ban or severely restrict abortion now that Roe has been lifted.
Fears are growing that abortion is only the start of several rights now under attack with the constitutional right that Roe was based on – the 14th amendment right to privacy – also being used to set precedents in other cases including the right to contraception and same-sex marriage.
In his opinion concurring with the majority ruling, Justice Clarence Thomas said that the Supreme Court should also “reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.
“We have a duty to ‘correct the error’ established in those precedents,” he wrote referring to the rulings that Americans have a right to contraception, to same-sex sex and same-sex marriage.