Abortion rights advocates rally for reproductive rights ahead of Roe v. Wade anniversary

As the 51st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision approaches, reproductive rights advocates continue to fight on behalf of marginalized communities impacted by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark ruling.

Rachel O’Leary Carmona, executive director of the Women’s March, on Saturday led one of several marches that took place across the country as she and others continue to fight for abortion rights. 

She told theGrio that she was marching in Phoenix “as a commemoration and as a promise of the work that we intend to do over the next year.”

“In the 90s, Black women and women of color moved forward with the framework of reproductive justice understanding that this fight is bigger than just about abortion,” she said.

“This is about criminalization. But, it’s also about the conditions necessary for women to be able to have families when and how they choose,” she continued. “And to not have the state intervene with you making the right choice for you and your family.”

Pro-choice activists protest during a rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in response to the leaked Supreme Court draft decision to overturn Roe v. Wade May 3, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Since the 1973 ruling was overturned, nearly 24 states, including Florida, Texas, Ohio, Oklahoma and Louisiana, have implemented some variation of an abortion ban. The laws disproportionately impacted Black women and other marginalized groups.

“This was the first time in United States history that the Supreme Court has taken away a fundamental right that generations of people depended on,” Elisabeth Smith, director of state policy and advocacy with the Center for Reproductive Rights, told theGrio.

In 2022, abortion was legal in every state in the country and today there are 14 states that have criminalized abortion. This means that nearly a quarter of the U.S. population is living in a state where reproductive autonomy is a crime,” she continued.

U.S. Supreme Court,
The U.S. Supreme Court is seen, with a carving of Justice in the foreground, April 19, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

“Black people, indigenous people, people of color, young people and the like, we know, that those communities bear the brunt,” Smith said. “We’ve known for a really long time that abortion bans hit communities that have been the target of discrimination and face discriminatory barriers to health care.”

Smith stated that, in those cases where marginalized people live in states that penalize abortion, they have very few options and are forced to travel to nearby states that permit them to obtain one.

“If it’s possible, people can try to overcome financial and logistical hurdles, take days off and find childcare, to try to leave those states to access care,” she said.

Some are “ordering abortion medication and using that at home” because their “options for abortion care is really limited and really difficult to obtain,” she said.

Georgia abortion law,
A small group, including Stephanie Batchelor, left, sits on the steps of the Georgia state Capitol protesting the overturning of Roe v. Wade on June 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Ben Gray, File)

O’Leary Carmona said that the “heaviest attacks on abortion are in states like Texas that have the highest cases of maternal mortality, particularly with Black women.”

“Black and Latinx women are heavily impacted in Texas as it pertains to the number of people who are being prevented from accessing abortion care,” she said.

Following the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, Texas implemented one of the strictest abortion bans in the country. The state law prohibits abortions if a fetal heartbeat has been detected.

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Matters were made worse for women when a federal appeals court rendered a decision earlier this year that permitted the state of Texas to ban emergency abortions.

The three-judge panel prohibited the Biden-Harris administration enforcing the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act of 1986 in the state. The law makes it mandatory for doctors to perform abortions if a woman’s life is in danger due to the pregnancy.

Anna Rupani, executive director of Fund Texas Choice, told theGrio that “Doctors and emergency room staff already have the enormous burden of providing lifesaving care at critical moments; this is no different.”

New York City protest following U.S. Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade,
Demonstrators hold signs during a rally to defend abortion access and codify Roe v Wade into law, in Foley Square in New York City on October 8, 2022. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP) (Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images)

“They should not be encumbered by harmful laws that are being interpreted by non-medical professionals who do not understand the need for life-saving care and are possibly preventing or delaying this care with horrific consequences to the pregnant person,” she said.

“Because of this ruling, it is literally dangerous for people to be pregnant in this state because they cannot count on medical professionals to provide lifesaving care in grave emergencies,” she continued.

O’Leary Carmona also told theGrio that “Black and brown women are more likely to be criminalized” as it pertains to abortions. 

In December 2023, Brittany Watts, a Black woman who had a miscarriage at her Ohio home, was charged with felony corpse abuse after investigators found the fetus lodged in the toilet in her home.

Pro-abortion protest,
Abortion rights advocates rally outside the US Supreme Court on April 14, 2023, in Washington, DC, speaking out against abortion pill restrictions. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

Warren Assistant Prosecutor Guarnieri informed the Municipal court judge that “how the child died” was not the issue, however it was “the fact the baby was put into a toilet, was large enough to clog up the toilet, left in the toilet, and she went on (with) her day.”

Despite the prosecutor’s efforts to have Watts indicted, a grand jury declined to do so.

“Luckily this case did not move forward, but it easily could have,” O’Leary Carmona told theGrio. “We know that Black and brown communities are the most at risk in terms of criminalization.”

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Reproductive rights advocates are continuing to fight for abortion rights as the 51st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision approaches. Rachel O’Leary Carmona and others marched in Phoenix in commemoration and promise to continue the work over the next year, recognizing that the fight is larger than just abortion and impacts marginalized communities. Since the 1973 ruling was overturned, nearly 24 states have implemented abortion bans, disproportionately affecting Black women and other marginalized groups. The laws have made it difficult for some people to access abortion care, with limited options and logistical barriers. Texas has implemented strict abortion bans and even banned emergency abortions. Additionally, Black and brown women are more likely to be criminalized in cases related to abortions, as seen in the case of Brittany Watts. Thus, the fight for abortion rights continues, with advocates pushing back against laws that restrict abortion access and criminalize reproductive autonomy in various states.

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