US protesters call on Biden to do more to protect abortion rights

Protesters say the executive order President Joe Biden signed on Friday to ease access to services to terminate pregnancies was insufficient.

abortion protests
Demonstrators tie green flags to the fence of the White House during a protest to pressure the Biden administration to act and protect abortion rights [Jose Luis Magana/AP Photo]

Hundreds of women gathered in front of the White House and in cities across the United States, calling for President Joe Biden to do more in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that removed federal abortion protection in the country.

Several demonstrators, who gathered in the pouring rain in Washington, DC on Saturday, said the Biden administration had come up short following the Supreme Court ruling that struck down Roe vs Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that determined access to abortion was protected under the country’s constitution.

“Stand up, Joe Biden,” a woman who gave only her first name, Becca, 37, said at the protest, according to the AFP news agency.

Many wore green, which has become the international colour of abortion rights, and shouted slogans including “My body, my choice” and “Bans off our bodies”.

US abortion protest
Women hold signs and raise slogans outside the White House [Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

The reversal of Roe vs Wade has returned the question of the legality of abortion to state governments across the US. Several states have since moved to ban the procedure completely, setting off an array of legal challenges in state courts.

The Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights research group, has identified at least 26 states considered at risk of banning abortion completely or to a prohibitive level following the Supreme Court ruling.

Becca said she had travelled more than two hours to Washington, DC from Virginia and carried a sign that said “abortion on demand without apology”.

“Fix this!” she said, adding an executive order signed by Biden on Friday that sought to ease some potential penalties that women seeking abortion could face did not go far enough.

That executive order formalised instructions to the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to push back on any efforts to limit the ability of women to access federally approved abortion medication or to travel across state lines to access clinical abortion services.

However, Biden had acknowledged that his office’s powers were limited, and as president, he could not restore federal abortion rights on his own.

“The fastest way to restore Roe is to pass a national law,” Biden said on Friday.

“The challenge is, go out and vote,” he added, referring to the upcoming midterm elections, which will decide the makeup of the US legislature. “For God’s sake, there is an election in November!”

Another protester, Christine, called on Biden to “explore the fullest extent of his power of the executive branch to ensure that women retain their rights, their reproductive rights”, although it remained unclear if Biden had any more room to manoeuvre on the issue.

The 50-year-old had travelled to the event with her three daughters, she told the AFP.

“And I am here to ensure that my daughters don’t have to go back 50 years in time to the days where abortions were happening in back alleys,” she said.

Saturday’s protest was organised by the Women’s March, a movement that drew millions to the streets in the nation’s capital and across the country the day after former US President Donald Trump was inaugurated as president in 2017.

The group has called for a “Summer of Rage” in response to the reversal of Roe vs Wade, Al Jazeera’s Rosiland Jordan, reported from Washington, DC.

“They say that they’re going to be coming out and holding what they call a summer of rage across the United States in order to bring up the point that protecting women’s right to abortion is just the beginning,” she said.

“Protecting the right to contraception, protecting same-sex marriages, protecting civil liberties of all sorts … They say if this is not reversed then many other things could reverse what it means to be an American.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies