Third day of protest after US supreme court strikes down abortion rights

Most rallies peaceful but some incidents of disorder, including Democratic politician punched by Republican opponent

Demonstrations continued in several US cities over the weekend in response to a supreme court ruling eliminating the constitutional right to abortion after almost 50 years.

The vast majority of protests were peaceful although there were isolated incidents of disorder. A fire at a Christian pregnancy centre in Colorado was being investigated as arson by authorities. A message left on the building read:” If abortions aren’t safe neither are you.”

Police in Arizona used tear gas to disperse a group of abortion rights supporters who, Republicans maintained, were seeking to break into the state senate building on Friday. In Rhode Island a Democratic state senate candidate was punched in the face by her Republican opponent — an off-duty police officer — during an abortion rights rally in Providence. He has since dropped out of the election contest.

Six people were arrested with charges including interfering with police, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after protesters opposing and supporting the supreme court decision gathered in downtown Greenville, South Carolina

At a rally held by former president Donald Trump on Saturday, Republican politician Mary Miller called the supreme court’s decision a “historic victory for white life”. Her office later said she had misread her speech and the comment was just a mix-up of words.

Trigger laws

Following the decision on Friday to strike down Roe v Wade ruling from 1973, which provided for a constitutional right to have a termination, at least eight states now have bans on abortion in place. Similar “trigger laws” will take effect in several more within weeks. Other states are also expected shortly to reactivate dormant pre-1973 legislation to implement restrictions or prohibitions on terminations.

US president Joe Biden has criticised the court, which he said had made some “terrible decisions”. However, the White House said there were no plans to expand the size of the court — essentially to appoint more judges to outvote the current conservative supermajority, as has been sought by some in his party.

A poll on Sunday suggested that 59 per cent of Americans disapproved of the supreme court ruling. More than half of respondents in the CBS/YouGov poll believed the court would in the future move to limit same-sex marriage and access to birth control.

Republican senator Lindsey Graham said on Sunday that the decision represented “a huge victory for the pro-life movement”.

Speaking on Fox News, he urged US attorney general Merrick Garland “to start putting people in jail who show up to the justices’ home to try to intimidate them and their family”. Abortion rights advocates demonstrated outside the home of supreme court judge Clarence Thomas on Friday.

New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called for an investigation by congress into the justices who she maintained lied under oath during their confirmation hearings with regard to their intentions regarding Roe v Wade. Some liberals have also urged the president to get around state bans by establishing abortion clinics on federal government lands in such locations.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent