Britain joins US as protests erupt after ‘devastating’ decision to scrap abortion rights

The landmark Roe v Wade ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court and is expected to make abortion illegal in about half of US states, sparking protests across the US and abroad

Protesters rallied in London and Edinburgh
Protesters rallied in London and Edinburgh

Protests have taken place in Britain after a “devastating” decision to scrap constitutional abortion rights in the United States drew widespread criticism.

The US Supreme Court has ended nearly 50 years of constitutional protections for abortion by deciding to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade judgment.

It is expected to lead to abortion bans in about half of US states.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called it a “major step backwards” and hundreds took to the streets of London and Edinburgh to protest the decision.

Crowds, some in costume, held signs reading “Our bodies, our choice” at a protest outside the US Embassy in Vauxhall, south London.

A protester holds a placard in support of abortion rights outside the US Embassy in London

Judith Orr, deputy chair of the Abortion Rights campaign group, which claims to have organized the demonstration, said the protesters were “full of anger and fury”.

In the Scottish capital, pro-choice activists and MSPs gathered outside the US consulate.

British politicians from across the spectrum have spoken out against the decision, including Mr Johnson, who told reporters at a press conference in Kigali, Rwanda: “I’ve always believed in a woman’s right to vote.”

Union leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: “Today’s devastating Supreme Court decision is a massive setback to women’s rights in the United States.

“Women’s right to make their own decisions about their own bodies is a fundamental human right.”

The decision was widely criticized

The SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon said she would strengthen anti-abortion and misogynist forces in other countries as well.

Former leader Jeremy Corbyn called it “devastating”, and Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas said it was a “truly barbaric verdict and heartbreaking news for women everywhere”.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted: “London stands with the women of America whose most fundamental rights and freedoms are threatened by this ruling.

“A dark day for a great country.”

Rabbi Jonathan Romain said, “America should prepare for unwanted children, backstreet abortions and suicides. Abortion shouldn’t be taken lightly, and adoption is another option, but complete strangers shouldn’t take away a woman’s control of her own body.

“Your right to choose is a sacred right.”

Demonstrators with banners and placards

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Bpas), Britain’s leading abortion provider, said it was “appalled” and called on the UK government to publicly condemn the “attack on women’s human rights”.

However, the charity Christian Action Research and Education (Care) welcomed the decision, saying “the most compassionate societies value and protect” both mothers and babies.

Right To Life UK spokeswoman Catherine Robinson said the ruling overturned “an unjust law” and was the “beginning of the legislative fight over abortion, certainly not the end”.

And protests against the move have erupted across the United States.

After the US ruling, a pro-choice crowd swelled to hundreds in the Supreme Court.

Elizabeth Kelly, Treasurer of Democrats Abroad United Kingdom, addresses the protesters

One chanted into a megaphone “legal abortion on demand” and “this decision must not stand”. Some shouted, “The Supreme Court is illegitimate.”

“It’s a painful day for those of us who support women’s rights,” said Laura Free, an Ithaca-based women’s rights historian who came to Washington to do research. Upon learning of the decision, she said, “I had to come here.”

A competing faction demonstrated in favor of the ruling, holding signs reading “The future is anti-abortion” and “dismember Roe”.

There were reports of widespread protesters across the US, including in New York, Los Angeles, Austin, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Miami and Oklahoma.

The Democratic governors of California, Washington and Oregon have vowed to protect reproductive rights and help women who travel to the West Coast to seek abortions.

The three states are building a “West Coast offense” to protect patient access to reproductive care, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a video statement detailing the plans with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and announced to the Governor of Washington, Jay Inslee.

The states issued a joint “multi-state commitment” in which they said they will work together to defend patients and health care workers who provide reproductive health care.

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