By Geoff Mulvihill
Activists and politicians are marking the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned a nationwide right to abortion with praise from some and protests from others.
Advocates on both sides marched at rallies 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, dueling 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 are pro-abortion rights can't be complacent because conservative judges have 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. As soon as this fall, more voters could 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.
Biden has pushed for a national law to reinstate abortion access. Republicans have called for a national ban.
Saturday evening, former President Donald Trump was the keynote speaker at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Washington. He praised his three Supreme Corurt nominees.
“Exactly one year ago today, those justices were the pivotal votes in the Supreme Court’s landmark decision ending the constitutional atrocity known as Roe v. Wade," Trump said.
He also declared: “I am proud to be the most pro-life president in American history.”
This week, former Vice President Mike Pence, who is seeking the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, called for his party's presidential candidates to join him in backing a ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
But with Democrats controlling the presidency and U.S. Senate, and Republicans holding the House, no federal change is imminent.
Nikki Haley, another GOP presidential candidate and former ambassador to the United Nations, said she backs a federal ban but it doesn't have enough support to advance. Speaking at the Faith and Freedom Conference in Washington, Haley said both parties should instead look to goals such as limiting abortion later in pregnancy. Only a half-dozen states allow abortion at any point in pregnancy, and abortions after about 21 weeks are very rare.
“We need to make sure that our country stops demonizing this issue and we humanize this issue,” Haley said. “This is personal for everyone.”
These policies have vast practical implications.
In states with the deepest bans, the number of abortions has plummeted to nearly zero. There have been more abortions in states where access has been maintained — especially those closest to those with bans, as women travel for care they used to be able to get closer to home.
“I can’t tell you how many people arrive at the clinic utterly exhausted after driving all night from Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana,” said Amy Bryant, a doctor who provides abortions at a clinic in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
There's also been a rise in use of networks that distribute abortion pills. But because of lags and gaps in official reporting — and because some of the pill use goes unreported — the impact on the total number of abortions in the U.S. is not clear.
Mulvihill reported from Cherry Hill, North Carolina. Associated Press journalists Stephanie Scarbrough and Will Weissert in Washington and Michael Tarm in Chicago contributed to this article.