By Ebi Kesiena
At least 16 Democratic members of Congress on Tuesday were arrested during an abortion-rights protest in Washington, D.C., including Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
This was announced by the U.S. Capitol Police announced on Twitter.
The protest was against the recent ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that had found the Constitution protected a woman’s right to an abortion. In the wake of the ruling, many states enacted laws with stringent restrictions or bans on abortions.
Recall that the US Supreme Court overturned its 50-year-old Roe v Wade decision. With the decision, millions of women in the country will lose their constitutional right to abortion, a right that Supreme Court itself previously granted them.
Ilhan Omar stated though her Twitter account that she was arrested in a civil disobedience action at the Supreme Court to protest Roe v Wade getting overturned and the assault on reproductive rights across the country.
“I will do whatever it takes, including putting my body on the line, to protect our fundamental rights,” she posted.
On Friday, June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court overturned two historic decisions it made in the past, Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992).
The decisions had respectively established and affirmed a constitutional right for women to obtain an abortion.
The judgement paves the way for states in the US to ban abortion. Thirteen states have already passed so-called trigger laws to automatically outlaw abortion, BBC reports, while half are expected to introduce new restrictions or bans.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden described it as “a tragic error” and urged states to enact laws to allow the procedure.
After the ruling, abortion access is expected to be cut off for about 36 million women of reproductive age, according to research from Planned Parenthood, a healthcare organisation that provides abortions.
Senator Cory Booker, who is the first African-American US senator from New Jersey, described Friday as “heartbreaking” following the Supreme Court judgement.
“This is a heartbreaking day. The hurt of too many is inexpressible. The pain and the fear and the grief and anger, and the outrage, and outrage, and outrage,” he said in a statement.
However, Senator Booker said despite the setback, people should lose hope.
“It is time to get up; to stand up, to speak up. It is a time to speak words that heal and help, to speak words that reaffirm our commitment to the cause of our country: the cause of liberty from government oppression, the cause of freedom, the freedom to control our own bodies.”
In 1969, 25-year-old Norma McCorvey, known by the legal pseudonym ‘Jane Roe’, became pregnant with her third child and wanted an abortion. But living in Texas meant Roe could not get an abortion except when necessary to save the mother’s life.
Roe claimed she was raped but the case was rejected. She was forced to give birth.
Her attorneys, Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, filed a lawsuit on her behalf in U.S. federal court against her local district attorney, Henry Wade.
In 1973, her case made it to the Supreme Court. Roe’s lawyers had described Texas’ abortion laws as unconstitutional and a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas ruled in her favour.
Subsequently, Texas’ abortion laws were subsequently declared unconstitutional but the parties appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.
On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court issued a 7–2 decision holding that state regulation of abortion is unconstitutional.
The Court resolved these competing interests by announcing a trimester timetable to guide all abortion regulations in the US.
During the first trimester (in the first months of pregnancy), there is an absolute right to an abortion. During the second trimester, there will be some government regulation, but only for the purpose of protecting maternal health and not for protecting foetal life.
During the last trimester, abortions could be regulated or banned by the state as the foetus nears the state where it could live outside the womb.
In 1992, a legal case known as Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey was decided by the Supreme Court. It redefined several provisions regarding abortion rights as established in Roe v. Wade ruling of 1973.