U.S. backsliding on women's rights underscores systemic flaws
* Thousands of demonstrators came to Washington, D.C., on Saturday to demand more action from the White House to safeguard abortion access, with the fight over abortion rights splitting America further along ideological and party lines.
* Without Roe v. Wade, states are allowed to impose their own legislation on the medical procedure. More than a dozen states, whose legislatures are controlled by Republicans, have enacted restrictive abortion laws or will have such legislation take effect in the coming weeks.
* With women's rights suffering a severe blow this time, America's hypocrisy on human rights and its systemic flaws have been laid bare again.
by Xinhua writer Sun Ding
WASHINGTON, July 9 (Xinhua) -- The United States continued to feel the heat from the Supreme Court's bombshell decision to overturn Roe v. Wade two weeks ago, which ended the constitutional protection of abortion rights for women in the nation.
Thousands of demonstrators came to Washington, D.C., on Saturday to demand more action from the White House to safeguard abortion access, with the fight over abortion rights splitting America further along ideological and party lines.
A self-portrayed "human rights champion," the United States' human rights record remains appalling. With women's rights suffering a severe blow this time, America's hypocrisy on human rights and its systemic flaws have been laid bare again.
SUMMER OF RAGE
Attendees of the Women's March under the theme "Summer of Rage" turned out in Franklin Square northeast of the White House in the morning despite a light rain. Most showed up with posters or banners that advocate abortion rights and wore a green bandana bearing the slogan "bans off our bodies."
"Today we're telling @POTUS and ALL our elected leaders that we won't let politicians play games with our lives and our futures," Women's March tweeted, tagging U.S. President Joe Biden. "We DEMAND our fundamental rights."
"I am attending this rally because I think it is important that we women have a voice and a choice with our bodies," Esther Torres, a demonstrator from Austin, Texas, told Xinhua. "It's a basic human right. Women decide what we do with our bodies."
The protesters marched to the White House at noon, chanting pro-choice slogans such as "my body my choice" on the streets before joining a sit-in outside the presidential residence and tying the bandanas on the north fence.
"We are marching. We are going to make some noise and get our point across that we are humans, and we have a human right," Torres said.
On June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court released the ruling to strike down Roe v. Wade, nearly five decades after setting a precedent in 1973 that women have a constitutional right to abortion -- arguably one of the most divisive issues across the nation due to a clash between religious beliefs and individual liberty.
"Roe was egregiously wrong from the start," Justice Samuel Alito, a conservative, wrote in the majority opinion. "Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences." The court's three liberal justices dissented, lamenting that "many millions of American women" have lost a fundamental constitutional protection.
The ruling has divided America further. Democrats and liberals have rushed to decry the high court's move as they generally support abortion rights and argue that abortion is a woman's choice. Republicans and conservatives who have long accused the procedure of taking an unborn life have taken a victory lap.
A small group of anti-abortion activists gathered at a street corner across Franklin Square, holding banners expressing their position, with one man using a megaphone to speak. The two sides of protesters shouted at each other in tense exchanges in the presence of law enforcement personnel and vehicles.
Without Roe v. Wade, states are allowed to impose their own legislation on the medical procedure. More than a dozen states, whose legislatures are controlled by Republicans, have enacted restrictive abortion laws or will have such legislation take effect in the coming weeks.
Kaylee White, attending school in West Virginia, is considering transferring to a different state where abortion is not criminalized.
"I don't feel protected in my state, my rights, especially. I don't want to contribute to that," she told Xinhua at the Franklin Square rally.
Three days after the Supreme Court issued the ruling, Caitlan Bernard, an obstetrician-gynecologist from the city of Indianapolis, received a call from "a child abuse doctor" in Ohio who had a 10-year-old patient who was six weeks and three days pregnant, according to the Indianapolis Star.
Unable to obtain an abortion in Ohio, where any procedure after six weeks is banned, the girl "was on her way to Indiana to Bernard's care," the Star wrote. Abortion is still legal in Indiana, but the conservative stronghold is poised to pass the state's own abortion law.
The story has gone viral across social media and caused outrage. "It is appalling that you would force a 10-year-old child -- who was violated -- to carry another child," Torres responded. "Her body is not fully developed, and yet you're going to force her to have a child. What world are we in?"
The American Civil Liberties Union's branch in Ohio tweeted patients and victims in the state "are suffering in real time" and that "the six-week abortion ban is causing long-term, devastating harm to our communities. This is absolutely tragic."
On Friday, Biden also weighed in on the case before signing an executive order on access to reproductive health care services. "Ten years old. Ten years old. Raped, six weeks pregnant. Already traumatized. Was forced to travel to another state. Imagine being that little girl," Biden said from the White House.
Members of the European Parliament voted to adopt a resolution on Thursday, condemning "once more the backsliding in women's rights and sexual and reproductive health and rights" in the United States and some European Union member states.
"The U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn the right to abortion is a devastating development and an attack on women's fundamental rights everywhere," said Swedish politician Helene Fritzon, a European Parliament member and vice-chair of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats. "It teaches us a lesson: women's and girls' human rights can never be taken for granted and we must always fight to defend them."
The U.S. Supreme Court is the final appellate court of the nation's judicial system, with the power to review and overturn lower court decisions. It is generally the final interpreter of federal law, including the constitution. Its rulings have far-reaching consequences for American society and politics.
The high court has increasingly come under scrutiny over the past few decades, particularly in recent years, amid the political polarization in Washington and throughout America. Questions surrounding its decisions and the court's independence have dominated the news cycle.
Confidence in the Supreme Court has declined sharply over the past year and reached a new low in Gallup's nearly 50-year trend. Only 25 percent of U.S. adults express "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the institution where conservatives have a 6-3 advantage over liberals on the nine-seat bench.
"It's a hot mess," said Celeste Gilbert, an abortion-rights supporter who lives in Virginia, describing the state of America. "Our elderly don't receive the healthcare. Our veterans don't get what they need. Our children aren't getting what they need. We've got gun troubles."
White also felt disappointed about the country's direction, calling what had happened with abortion rights "the tip of an iceberg."
Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives plan to vote next week on bills protecting abortion access. But some Republican governors and anti-abortion groups are looking at laws that would criminalize patients seeking abortions out of state. The bills face long odds in the evenly-divided Senate since Democrats do not have enough support to pass the filibuster's 60-vote threshold.
Biden acknowledged his executive order alone could not guarantee abortion rights in states that have moved to ban access and encouraged Democrats to vote in November's midterm elections. "We need two additional pro-choice senators and a pro-choice House to codify Roe as federal law. Your vote can make that a reality," he said Friday.
However, the current Democratic congressional majority faces an unfavorable election environment since the president's party typically loses seats on Capitol Hill in midterm elections, and Biden's approval rating remains low.
Republicans, in contrast, have defended the conservative-leaning Supreme Court and its ruling on Roe v. Wade and are said to be contemplating a national anti-abortion bill if they win control of Congress later this year, with a 15-week ban reportedly on the table.
(Xiao Xiao in Washington, D.C., contributed to the story.) (Video reporters: Sun Ding, Hu Yousong; video editors: Peng Ying, Cao Ying, Zhu Cong)■