Protesters across the country returned to the streets Saturday for a second day of demonstrations after the Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade — as states began to draw lines in the sand over the incendiary issue of abortion.
The governors of Minnesota and Washington announced new policies aimed to welcome out-of-state patients to their abortion clinics, while leaders of conservative bastions like Mississippi exulted in the court’s landmark decision as they counted down the days until their anti-abortion trigger laws kick in.
The broadening state-versus-state divide brought the long-simmering tensions over reproductive rights boiling up to the surface of American political life — 49 years after the Supreme Court declared abortion to be a constitutional right.
President Biden on Saturday refused to boost his fellow Democrats’ calls to pack the court or blow up the Senate’s filibuster rules.
“That is not something that he wants to do,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters, hours after Biden blasted the court’s conservative majority and its “terrible decisions.”
“There’s been a lot of urgency from this president,” Jean-Pierre insisted, vowing that Biden will “continue to find solutions” to bolster abortion rights. But she declined to define any specific actions that he might take, as she traveled with him to Europe aboard Air Force One.
Sign-waving demonstrators gathered peacefully outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC Saturday afternoon, hours after overnight protests against the ruling sparked arrests in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, and other major cities.
“This is just the beginning,” one protester told CNN.
At least two dozen agitators were arrested in Manhattan early Saturday after a crowd of 17,000 marched through midtown, and one protester was injured in Cedar Rapids, Iowa when several people launched a “verbal confrontation” with the driver of a large black pick-up truck. The driver was “voluntarily interviewed” by police and released.
In Phoenix, Ariz., cops deployed tear gas to disperse protesters who tried to break into the state’s Senate building as legislators voted on a school-choice bill late Friday.
“We are currently there being held hostage inside the Senate building due to members of the public trying to breach our security,” Republican state senator Kelly Townsend tweeted. “We smell teargas and the children of one of the members are in the office sobbing with fear.”
“I expect a J24 committee to be created immediately,” she added — equating the pro-abortion demonstrators to the rioters who attacked the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
The Department of Homeland Security warned that “domestic violent extremist activity” is “likely” in the wake of the court’s decision.
“We expect violence could occur for weeks,” the department’s Counterterrorism Mission Center wrote in a memo issued Friday.
Across the country, conservatives exulted as the protesters raged.
“I’m just ecstatic and so proud that Mississippi has led the nation to this decision,” Gov. Tate Reeves, whose state’s restrictive 15-week abortion ban led to the landmark decision, told Fox News.
“This is a win for life,” Reeves said. “This decision is going to directly result in more baby hearts beating … just more lives well-lived.”
But in Jackson, Miss., the state’s only abortion clinic remained open — and surrounded by anti-abortion protesters — with appointments fully booked for the next nine days, when a trigger law outlawing abortion will take effect.
Anti-abortion demonstrators gathered at the clinic at 4:00 am Saturday to celebrate the ruling — and to discourage prospective patients, CNN reported.
In Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walsh signed an executive order protecting out-of-state abortion seekers who travel to his state’s eight abortion clinics to obtain the procedure.
“Your reproductive freedom will remain protected in Minnesota as long as I am in office,” the Democrat vowed.
And Washington Gov. Jay Inslee pledged to create an abortion “sanctuary state,” promising an initial $1 million of subsidies for reproductive healthcare centers that expect to see streams of new patients from states like neighboring Idaho, whose trigger law will ban almost all abortions.
In other developments:
- Sens. Susan Collins, a Republican, and West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin – who voted to confirm Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch – complained that they had been misled by the nominees. “Both were insistent on the importance of supporting long-standing precedents that the country has relied upon,” Collins said, calling the ruling “a sudden and radical jolt to the country that will lead to political chaos.”
- Democrat Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Tina Smith pushed Biden to “declare a public health emergency” in a Saturday op-ed, insisting that the president has the power to assist states that retain legal abortion.
- In Utah, Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit to halt the trigger law that outlawed almost all abortions in the state soon after the Supreme Court handed down its Friday decision. The law makes preforming an abortion a second-degree felony.
Some Democrats hoped to use the blowback to their advantage in the upcoming midterm elections, which the Republican Party appears poised to dominate.
“Democrats have a real opportunity right now to harness this anger, to harness the sadness,” strategist Mo Elleithee told a DNC subcommittee on Friday.
Two left-leaning groups, NARAL Freedom Fund and Priorities USA Action, spent $300,000 on digital advertising in the hours after the ruling was announced.
But some Dems, like Jamie Perrapato of Turn PA Blue, expressed despair.
“I feel sick,” Perrapato said. “I hope [voters] realize, even though it’s terrible, you can’t put your head in the sand.”
“But I don’t know,” he added. “It’s a really bleak time.”