ST LOUIS, June 25 — Standing outside what had been the last remaining abortion clinic in Missouri on Friday, Pamela Lukehart choked back tears as she recalled how things were before the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision enshrining a woman’s right to the procedure.
“Women died getting abortions back then,” the 68-year-old told AFP, her voice breaking as she stood alongside scores of other protesters.
“We were trying to protect women’s rights, women’s lives, and now they’ve taken all that away from us.”
The conservative-dominated Supreme Court on Friday overturned its monumental decision in Roe v. Wade, putting an end to the federal right to abortions it established nearly 50 years ago.
The seismic ruling immediately triggered a wave of right-leaning states to impose new bans on the procedure — with Missouri being the first.
Less than two hours after the court’s decision, the state’s attorney general Eric Schmitt tweeted a photo of himself signing off on the prohibition, calling the occasion “a monumental day for the sanctity of life”.
The swift ban forced the Planned Parenthood clinic on St. Louis’ Forest Park Avenue — which had been the last facility providing abortions in the state — to immediately stop offering the procedure.
“Today, for me, it’s tragic because we fought so hard to get this law passed in 1973,” said Lukehart, who was accompanied by her granddaughter Audrey at the protest outside the Planned Parenthood clinic.
“Now 50 years later, they have jerked this away from us. This is wrong. It’s totally wrong,” she said.
‘We Cannot Stand By’
While Midwestern, conservative Missouri was the first state to ban abortions after the ruling, it was not the last.
As of Friday evening, at least six other states had imposed bans: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and South Dakota.
Indiana also announced it would take steps to do the same, and abortion providers in Wisconsin said the procedure was now banned there as well.
Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in St. Louis following the ban, chanting “My body, my choice,” and carrying signs bearing slogans like “Abortion is Healthcare.”
Addressing the crowd through a megaphone, one speaker said: “We cannot stand by while our rights are taken away from us.”
Back at the Planned Parenthood clinic, protester Alec Ryan, 31, said the new bans on abortion would have tangible consequences.
“So there are going to be women and pregnant people who are trapped in abusive marriages because they can’t get an abortion. There are going to be people who are put in situations that they shouldn’t be put into,” he told AFP.
“It’s going to be a tragedy.”
Linda Locke, who sits on the Planned Parenthood’s board in St Louis, worried about the impact of Friday’s decision on younger generations.
“I have granddaughters, right?” she said. “And they all grew up thinking their body was under their control. And today, it’s just shocking to me and disappointing that the Supreme Court just told them that, ‘No, you don’t... We don’t trust you to make decisions about your own body.’“ — AFP