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Abortion clinics begin closing after Supreme Court ruling

Abortion clinics in at least eight US states stopped performing abortions and others began to close after the Supreme Court removed American women’s constitutional right to abortion (Julia Nikhinson/AP)
Abortion clinics in at least eight US states stopped performing abortions and others began to close after the Supreme Court removed American women’s constitutional right to abortion (Julia Nikhinson/AP)

Abortion clinics in at least eight US states stopped performing abortions and others began to close after the Supreme Court removed American women’s constitutional right to the procedure.

States with trigger laws which included Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, South Dakota, Wisconsin and West Virginia stopped performing abortions after Friday’s decision.

The court’s overturning of the landmark Roe v Wade ruling is likely to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states. Of these, 13 outlawed abortion instantly.

The ruling, unthinkable just a few years ago, was the culmination of decades of efforts by abortion opponents, made possible by an emboldened right side of the court fortified by three appointees of former president Donald Trump.

Both sides predicted the fight over abortion would continue, in state capitals, in Washington and at the ballot box. Justice Clarence Thomas, part of Friday’s majority, urged colleagues to overturn other high court rulings protecting same-sex marriage, gay sex and the use of contraceptives.

Pregnant women considering abortions already had been dealing with a near-complete ban in Oklahoma and a prohibition after roughly six weeks in Texas.

In Ohio, a ban on most abortions at the first detectable foetal heartbeat became the law when a federal judge dissolved an injunction that had kept the measure on hold for nearly three years. And Utah’s law was triggered by the ruling, going into effect with narrow exceptions.

Abortion foes cheered the ruling, but abortion-rights supporters, including President Joe Biden, expressed dismay and pledged to fight to restore the rights.

Protests built into the evening in a number of cities, including thousands demonstrating against the decision outside the barricaded Supreme Court. Thousands more chanted “We will rise up” in New York’s Washington Square.

At the White House, Mr Biden said, “It’s a sad day for the court and for the country.”

He urged voters to make it a defining issue in the November elections, declaring, “This decision must not be the final word.”

Mom Mitzi Rivas hugs daughter Maya Iribarren as abortion-rights protesters gather following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade
Abortion-rights supporters, including President Joe Biden, expressed dismay and pledged to fight to restore the rights (Josie Lepe/AP)

Outside the White House, Ansley Cole, a college student from Atlanta, said she was “scared because what are they going to come after next?… The next election cycle is going to be brutal, like it’s terrifying. And if they’re going to do this, again, what’s next?”

Mr Trump began taking credit for the Supreme Court’s decision, calling it “the biggest WIN for LIFE in a generation”.

He said the rulings and others “were only made possible because I delivered everything as promised, including nominating and getting three highly respected and strong Constitutionalists confirmed to the United States Supreme Court. It was my great honour to do so!”

Three Trump appointees voted on Friday to scrap Roe v Wade: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

Clinic escort Kim Gibson stands outside the Jackson Women’s Health Organisation clinic in Jackson, Mississippi, calling out to incoming patients that the clinic is still open, moments after the Supreme Court ruling
Clinic escort Kim Gibson stands outside the Jackson Women’s Health Organisation clinic in Jackson, Mississippi, calling out to incoming patients that the clinic is still open, moments after the Supreme Court ruling (Rogelio V Solis/AP)

The decision is expected to disproportionately affect minority women who already face limited access to health care, according to statistics analysed by The Associated Press.

It also puts the court at odds with a majority of Americans who favoured preserving Roe, according to opinion polls.

Surveys conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Centre for Public Affairs Research and others have shown a majority in favour of abortion being legal in all or most circumstances. But many also support restrictions especially later in pregnancy. Surveys consistently show that about one in 10 Americans want abortion to be illegal in all cases.

The ruling came more than a month after the stunning leak of a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito indicating the court was prepared to take this momentous step.

Mr Alito, in the final opinion issued on Friday, wrote that Roe and Planned Parenthood v Casey, the 1992 decision that reaffirmed the right to abortion, were wrong and had to be be overturned.

Pro-abortion supporter Isaiah Rosales holds a sign comparing women’s right and gun rights during a rally to protest the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade
Pro-abortion supporter Isaiah Rosales holds a sign comparing women’s right and gun rights during a rally to protest the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade (Watchara Phomicinda /The Orange County Register/AP)

Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement that the Justice Department will protect providers and those seeking abortions in states where it is legal and “work with other arms of the federal government that seek to use their lawful authorities to protect and preserve access to reproductive care”.

In particular, Mr Garland said the federal Food and Drug Administration had approved the use of Mifepristone for medication abortions.

More than 90% of abortions take place in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, and more than half are now done with pills, not surgery, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.

Mississippi’s only abortion clinic, which was at the centre of Friday’s case, continued to see patients on Friday. Outside, men used a bullhorn to tell people inside that they would burn in hell. Clinic escorts wearing colourful vests used large speakers to blast Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” at the protesters.

Supreme Court Abortion San Francisco Austin
Abortion-rights protesters rally at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas (Sara Diggins/Austin American-Statesman/AP)

Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky and Missouri are among 13 states, mainly in the South and Midwest, that already have laws on the books to ban abortion in the event Roe was overturned. Another half-dozen states have near-total bans or prohibitions after six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.

In roughly a half-dozen other states, including West Virginia and Wisconsin, the fight will be over dormant abortion bans that were enacted before Roe was decided in 1973 or new proposals to sharply limit when abortions can be performed, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Outside the barricaded Supreme Court, a crowd of mostly young women grew into the hundreds within hours of the decision.

Some shouted, “The Supreme Court is illegitimate,” while waves of others, wearing red shirts with “The Pro-Life Generation Votes,” celebrated, danced and thrust their arms into the air.

The Biden administration and other defenders of abortion rights have warned that a decision overturning Roe also would threaten other high court decisions in favour of gay rights and even potentially contraception.