By MARYCLAIRE DALE
The abortion bans that went on the books in some states if Roe v. Wade began to take effect automatically on Friday, while clinics elsewhere — including Alabama, Texas and West Virginia — stopped performing abortions for fear of lawsuits, sending women back to tears.
“Some patients collapsed and couldn’t speak through their sobs,” said Katie Quinonez, executive director of West Virginia’s only abortion clinic, whose staff spent the day calling dozens of patients for cancel their appointments. “Some patients were stunned and didn’t know what to say. Some patients did not understand what was happening.
America has been rocked with anger, joy, fear and confusion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe. The canyon-like divide across the United States over the right to terminate a pregnancy was on full display, with abortion-rights supporters calling it a dark day in history, while haters of the abortion hailed the decision as the answer to their prayers.
Women who crossed state lines to terminate a pregnancy found themselves immediately thwarted in some places as abortions were halted due to state laws that were triggered by the court ruling or confusion about when these laws come into effect.
By eliminating the constitutional right to abortion that has existed for half a century, the High Court left the politically charged issue to the states, about half of which are now likely to ban the procedure.
Abortions were immediately halted in nine states. Providers in two other states, Oklahoma and South Dakota, had already stopped performing the procedure in the past month. About 73 million people live in the 11 states where the procedure was unavailable, more than a fifth of the US population.
The reaction across the country has largely unfolded along predictable political lines.
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat in a state where abortions are available with few restrictions, called the decision a “war on women” and vowed to stand as a “brick wall” for help preserve the law. Republican Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin has promised to seek an abortion ban after 15 weeks.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a conservative Republican widely seen as a potential presidential candidate in 2024, tweeted: “The Supreme Court has answered the prayers of millions upon millions of Americans.
The issue is sure to intensify the fall election season. Both sides intend to use the issue to energize supporters and get them to vote.
“This country is teetering to the right, taking away rights. Voters are going to have to intervene,” said Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, U.S. House Majority Whip.
Some states, including Louisiana, Arkansas, and Missouri, had “trigger law” bans on the books that went into effect as soon as Roe fell.
In Alabama, the state’s three abortion clinics have stopped performing the procedure for fear that providers will now be prosecuted under a 1951 law.
At the Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives in Huntsville, staff had to tell women in the waiting room Friday morning that they could no longer perform abortions that day. Some had come from as far away as Texas for a date.
“A lot of them just started to break down crying. Can you imagine if you had driven 12 hours to get this care in that condition and you’re not capable of it?” the clinic owner said. , Dalton Johnson Patients were given a list of out-of-state locations that still perform abortions.
Abortion providers across Arizona have also stopped doing procedures as they try to determine whether a law dating back to pre-state times – before 1912 – means doctors and nurses now face punishment. from prison.
In Texas, providers wondered which law they should follow: a 1925 ban, a 2021 law that limits abortions to the first six weeks of pregnancy, or a trigger law that outright bans the procedure but does not would come into force for a month or more. After. The confusion led them to suspend abortions while they sought legal advice.
Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has warned they could face immediate prosecution for performing abortions under the Prohibition-era ban, which is punishable by two to five years from prison.
It was the risk of prosecution under a 19th-century prison-like abortion ban that led the West Virginia Women’s Health Center to stop performing the procedure.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, said he would not hesitate to call the Legislature into a special session if the ban needed to be clarified.
In Ohio, a federal judge dissolved an injunction, allowing a 2019 state law to take effect banning most abortions at the first detectable fetal heartbeat.
The High Court’s decision sparked strong reactions across the country.
Carol E. Tracy, executive director of the Women’s Law Project in Philadelphia, was “absolutely furious.”
“They want women to be barefoot and pregnant again,” she said. “But I have no doubt that like-minded women and men, and members of the LGBTQ community, who are also at great risk, … we will fight back. I think it’s going to be a long, hard fight. »
Garrett Bess, who works with a lobbying arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, said his group would continue to press states to restrict abortion.
“We will work with ordinary Americans to ensure the protection of pregnant women and babies,” Bess told the Supreme Court. “It’s been a long time coming, and it’s a welcome move.”
Opinion polls show that a majority of Americans favor preserving Roe.
Among them is Alison Dreith, 41, an abortion activist in southern Illinois, where the governor has pledged to keep the procedure accessible. She said she fears for the safety of abortion workers, especially those helping people from states where the procedure is banned.
Dreith works with the Midwest Action Coalition, which provides money for gas, childcare and other practical supports to women seeking abortions.
“I absolutely believe they’ll try to come after me. I’m not cut out for prison, but I’m ready,” she said, “and I say, ‘Let’s do it.’ Do you want to choose this fight with me?
People on both sides of the emotional issue took to the streets in protest or rejoicing, gathering in parks, on the steps of state capitols, on sidewalks outside courthouses and at abortion clinics. .
In Omaha, Nebraska, about 50 abortion opponents rallied outside a federal courthouse, vowing to pressure lawmakers to ban the procedure.
A few miles away, more than 1,000 abortion-rights supporters lined a busy street and bridge overlooking rush-hour traffic, saying they would try to keep abortion legal in the state despite its strong conservative tendencies. They held up signs and shouted as passing motorists honked their horns.
In Little Rock, Arkansas, one man among a crowd of more than 100 held up a sign that read “Drop the Supreme Court.”
Outside Planned Parenthood in St. Louis, Missouri, abortion haters held a victory celebration.
“I never thought I would live to see this day,” said Mary McMahan, 64, who has been active in the movement since childhood and has spent many hours on the sidewalk outside the clinic. to pray. ” But there. Thank God he’s here.
Emma Garland, 18, from Freeburg, Illinois, came forward to support Planned Parenthood, saying she was afraid her rights would be “stripped away”.
“I thought we had more faith in our country as a whole not to overthrow it, but we lost that faith today,” Garland said.
AP reporters from across the United States contributed to this report. Follow Maryclaire Dale on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Maryclairedale
For full AP coverage of the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion, go to https://apnews.com/hub/abortion