Had the Supreme Court not overturned the landmark reproductive rights protections of Roe v. Wade with their ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Sunday would’ve been the historic case’s 50th anniversary. Across the country, several people shared their stories of accessing reproductive health care thanks to Roe. Similarly, Vice President Kamala Harris took the chance to announce President Joe Biden’s plan to issue a memorandum that would protect access to medication abortion nationwide.
The news comes a few weeks after the federal government announced that pharmacies would be permitted to dispense so-called abortion pills—mifepristone and misoprostol—under a rules change from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The rules change was met with criticism from several conservative states, which in return, warned pharmacies and those seeking abortions of the consequences.
In response to conservative states limiting access to medical abortions, the president’s memorandum, released Sunday, has listed actions that will not only protect legal access to medication abortion, but will also support and protect patients, providers, and pharmacies that want to access the pills, NBC News reported.
The memorandum directs Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to consider new guidance in order to ensure accessibility to mifepristone and misoprostol is in place and that patients know their right to access reproductive health care.
“Members of our Cabinet and our administration are now directed to identify barriers to access and recommend actions to make sure that: doctors can legally prescribe, that pharmacies can dispense and that women can secure safe and effective medication,” Harris said Sunday when announcing the memorandum.
“Even in states that protect reproductive rights, like New Jersey, Illinois, Oregon, even there, people live in fear of what might be next, because Republicans in Congress are now calling for a nationwide abortion ban. Even from the moment of conception, the right of every woman in every state in this country to make decisions about her own body is on the line. And I said it before and I will say it again: How dare they?”
According to The Hill, after the fall of Roe v. Wade, mifepristone accounted for more than half of all abortions in the country.
In addition to announcing the memorandum, Harris urged Congress members to introduce bills aimed at protecting abortion rights nationally, noting that the Biden administration would sign and support them.
But whether such laws would even pass to make it to Biden is unclear. A new NPR/Ipsos poll finds that while 3 in 5 Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, when asked about the circumstances of abortion, their opinions range. Conducted in January, people from all spectrums of the political poll were asked whether they knew the abortion laws in their state and about the circumstances. While answers varied, the majority agreed that politics—not public will—drive abortion policy.
According to NPR, abortion is illegal or heavily restricted in at least 14 states. According to the poll, these restrictions are at odds with what the majority of Americans want.
To commemorate the landmark case’s would-be anniversary, people also took to social media to share their stories of how they were either able to access care during the time Roe was law, and the struggles they’ve faced since its overturn.
One Idaho woman even went viral on Tik Tok for sharing the story of her 19-day miscarriage—during which she said the state's abortion laws prevented her from getting care, ABC News reported.
"Why should I get to death's door to get help?" Carmen Broesder asked. "I am prepared to be a mother. I am a mother and I wanted to have another baby. That is my story and it almost killed me."
Abortion rights supporters across the country also participated in the first organized Women’s March since the overturn of Roe v. Wade on Sunday, Huff Post reported.
We've got a special double-barreled, two-guest show for you on this week's episode of The Downballot! First up is Tiffany Muller, the president of End Citizens United, who discusses her group's efforts to roll back the corrupting effects of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision as we hit the ruling's 13th anniversary. Muller tells us about ECU's short- and long-term plans to enact serious campaign finance reform; how the organization has expanded into the broader voting rights arena in recent years; and research showing the surprising connection many voters drew between the GOP's attacks on democracy and their war against abortion rights.
Then we're joined by law professor Quinn Yeargain to gape slack-jawed at the astonishing setback Gov. Kathy Hochul experienced in the state capitol on Wednesday when a Democratic-led Senate committee rejected her conservative pick to lead New York's top court. Yeargain explains why Hochul's threatened lawsuit to force the legislature to hold a full floor vote on Hector LaSalle defies 250 years of precedent and what will happen if she eventually retreats—as she manifestly should.