Protests Held Across The U.S. In Response To States Passing Restrictive Abortion Laws

May 21, 2019
Originally published on May 21, 2019 6:46 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Another story now - across the country today, supporters of abortion rights are demonstrating.

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UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) My body, my choice. My body, my choice. My body...

KELLY: Voices from the protest outside the Supreme Court here in Washington. Now, these rallies are a reaction to the growing number of states that have passed new restrictions on abortion. NPR's Sarah McCammon was at today's rally here in D.C. She is here in the studio now. Welcome.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Thank you.

KELLY: Start with what abortion rights advocates who you were talking to at the protest today - what they are saying. And more broadly, what are their plans to push back against these laws?

MCCAMMON: Right. So they're already challenging many of these laws in court - that's a big part of the strategy - and promising to bring more challenges soon. But today was really about rallying the base around this issue. So groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL are promising to make abortion a big campaign issue next year in 2020. Several Democratic presidential hopefuls stopped by the rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court today. Here's one of them - Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.

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AMY KLOBUCHAR: I don't think anyone thought we were going to have this debate again, but we are right in the middle of this debate because these guys think they're going to take women's health care backward. And are we going to let them?

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: No.

KLOBUCHAR: We are not.

MCCAMMON: And several other Democratic hopefuls were there, too, and their message was similar. It was that the abortion rights movement is fighting back at the ballot box.

KELLY: Well, stay with the ballot box for a second and let me ask you about the people on the other side of this debate, those who oppose abortion rights. Is this a fight that they want to have, going into 2020?

MCCAMMON: At least some of them definitely do. They're feeling energized by what they see as a lot of progress on this issue and aren't showing much sign of backing down. In Alabama, for example, where a really restrictive abortion law was just passed...

KELLY: Yeah.

MCCAMMON: ...Banning abortion throughout pregnancy, they're holding - supporters are holding a rally of their own tomorrow to demonstrate support for that. Lawmakers in a few other states, like Louisiana, are still considering some of these early abortion bans. And supporters feel that President Trump has really delivered on his promises to social conservatives on this issue, so I'd expect to hear more of that message.

At the same time, the fact that some of these laws, like the one in Alabama, don't contain exceptions for rape and incest could be a vulnerability for Republicans. Abortion rights supporters are pointing to that as one reason they think some abortion rights opponents may have gone too far. So overall, both sides are ready for a fight.

KELLY: And in terms of where things stand on the ground, Sarah, am I right in thinking that none of these bans have actually taken effect yet - right?

MCCAMMON: Right. None of them are in effect - not Alabama's, nor several of the states who've banned abortion as soon as cardiac activity can be detected. That's because, in a lot of cases, legal challenges are pending, or they just haven't taken effect yet. There was a hearing just today in Mississippi on an early ban, and a federal judge appears likely to block that one. But during an interview at the D.C. rally today, Planned Parenthood President Dr. Leana Wen said, right now there is still a lot of confusion about this in some of these states.

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LEANA WEN: Hundreds of patients are calling our call centers in Georgia, in Alabama, in Missouri, wondering about what's happening. They're scared. They don't know if our doors are open. And I want to reassure everyone that these laws are not in effect. Our doors are open today. They're going to be open tomorrow, and Planned Parenthood will be doing everything that we can to fight against these unconstitutional, illegal and dangerous laws.

MCCAMMON: And of course, it'll be up to the courts to decide if any of these laws are constitutional, and that is a process that could take years.

KELLY: All right. That is NPR's Sarah McCammon reporting. Thank you, Sarah.

MCCAMMON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.