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US Abortion Foes, Supporters Map Next Moves After Roe Reversal

A Texas group that helps women pay for abortions halted its efforts Saturday while evaluating its legal risk under a strict state ban. Mississippi’s only abortion clinic continued to see patients while awaiting a 10-day notice that will trigger a ban. Elected officials across the country vowed to take action to protect women’s access to reproductive health care, and abortion foes promised to take the fight to new arenas.

A day after the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade ended the constitutional right to abortion, emotional protests and prayer vigils turned to resolve as several states enacted bans and both supporters and opponents of abortion rights mapped out their next moves.

In Texas, Cathy Torres, organizing manager for Frontera Fund, a group that helps pay for abortions, said there is a lot of fear and confusion in the Rio Grande Valley near the U.S.-Mexico border, where many people are in the country illegally.

That includes how the state’s abortion law will be enforced. Under the law, people who help patients get abortions can be fined and doctors who perform them could face life in prison.

“We are a fund led by people of color, who will be criminalized first,” Torres said, adding that abortion funds like hers that have paused operations hope to find a way to safely restart. “We just really need to keep that in mind and understand the risk.”

Tyler Harden, Mississippi director for Planned Parenthood Southeast, said she spent Friday and Saturday making sure people with impending appointments at the state’s only abortion clinic — which featured in the Supreme Court case but is not affiliated with Planned Parenthood — know they don’t have to cancel them right away. Abortions can take place until 10 days after the state attorney general publishes a required administrative notice.

Mississippi will ban the procedure except for pregnancies that endanger the woman’s life or those caused by rape reported to law enforcement. The Republican speaker of the Mississippi House, Philip Gunn, said during a news conference Friday that he would oppose adding an exception for incest.

“I believe that life begins at conception,” Gunn said.

Harden said she has been providing information about funds that help people travel out of state to have abortions. Many in Mississippi were doing so even before the ruling, but that will become more difficult now that abortions have ended in neighboring states. Florida is the nearest “safe haven” state, but Harden said, “we know that that may not be the case for too much longer.”

At the National Right to Life convention in Atlanta, a leader within the anti-abortion group warned attendees Saturday that the Supreme Court’s decision ushers in “a time of great possibility and a time of great danger.”

Randall O’Bannon, the organization’s director of education and research, encouraged activists to celebrate their victories but stay focused and continue working on the issue. Specifically, he called out medication taken to induce abortion.

“With Roe headed for the dustbin of history, and states gaining the power to limit abortions, this is where the battle is going to be played out over the next several years,” O’Bannon said. “The new modern menace is a chemical or medical abortion with pills ordered online and mailed directly to a woman’s home.”

Protests broke out for a second day in cities across the country, from Los Angeles to Oklahoma City to Jackson, Mississippi.

In the LA demonstration, one of several in California, hundreds of people marched through downtown carrying signs with slogans like “my body, my choice” and “abort the court.”

Turnout was smaller in Oklahoma City, where about 15 protesters rallied outside the Capitol. Oklahoma is one of 11 states where there are no providers offering abortions, and it passed the nation’s strictest abortion law in May.

“I have gone through a wave of emotions in the last 24 hours. … It’s upsetting, it’s angry, it’s hard to put together everything I’m feeling right now,” said Marie Adams, 45, who has had two abortions for ectopic pregnancies, where a fertilized egg is unable to survive. She called the issue “very personal to me.”

“Half the population of the United States just lost a fundamental right,” Adams said. “We need to speak up and speak loud.”

Callie Pruett, who volunteered to escort patients into West Virginia’s only abortion clinic before it stopped offering the procedure after Friday’s ruling, said she plans to work in voter registration in the hope of electing officials who support abortion rights. The executive director of Appalachians for Appalachia added that her organization also will apply for grants to help patients get access to abortion care, including out of state.

“We have to create networks of people who are willing to drive people to Maryland or to D.C.,” Pruett said. “That kind of local action requires organization at a level that we have not seen in nearly 50 years.”

Fellow West Virginian Sarah MacKenzie, 25, said she’s motivated to fight for abortion access by the memory of her mother, Denise Clegg, a passionate reproductive health advocate who worked for years at the state’s clinic as a nurse practitioner and died unexpectedly in May. MacKenzie plans to attend protests in the capital, Charleston, and donate to a local abortion fund.

“She would be absolutely devastated. She was so afraid of this happening — she wanted to stop it,” Mackenzie said, adding, “I’ll do everything in my power to make sure that this gets reversed.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling is likely to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.

Since the decision, clinics have stopped performing abortions in Arizona, Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Women considering abortions already had been dealing with the near-complete ban in Oklahoma and a prohibition after roughly six weeks in Texas.

In Ohio, a ban on most abortions from the first detectable fetal heartbeat became law when a federal judge dissolved an injunction that had kept the measure on hold for nearly three years.

Another law with narrow exceptions was triggered in Utah by Friday’s ruling. Planned Parenthood Association of Utah filed a lawsuit against it in state court and said it would request a temporary restraining order, arguing it violates the state constitution.

Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota, where abortion remains legal, signed an executive order shielding people seeking or providing abortions in his state from facing legal consequences in other states. Walz also has vowed to reject requests to extradite anyone accused of committing acts related to reproductive health care that are not criminal offenses in Minnesota.

“My office has been and will continue to be a firewall against legislation that would reverse reproductive freedom,” he said.

In Fargo, North Dakota, the state’s sole abortion provider faces a 30-day window before it would have to shut down and plans to move across the river to Minnesota. Red River Women’s Clinic owner Tammi Kromenaker said Saturday that she has secured a location in Moorhead and an online fundraiser to support the move has brought in more than half a million dollars in less than three days.

Republicans sought to downplay their excitement about winning their decades-long fight to overturn Roe, aware that the ruling could energize the Democratic base, particularly suburban women. Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, said she expects abortion opponents to turn out in huge numbers this fall.

But Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, said Saturday he believes the issue will energize independents and he hopes to translate anger over Roe’s demise into votes.

“Any time you take half the people in Wisconsin and make them second-class citizens,” Evers said, “I have to believe there’s going to be a reaction to that.” 

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Life in Donbas: ‘We Would Like to Live a Little Bit Longer’

The prolonged roar of Grad rockets can be heard as locals in the east Ukrainian town of Siversk crowd around a van selling essentials such as bread, sausages and gas for camp stoves.

“Everyone is suffering. All of us here are trying to survive,” said Nina, a 64-year-old retiree, pushing a bicycle.

“There’s no water, no gas, no electricity. … We have been living for three months now under shelling. It’s like we’re in the Stone Ages,” she said.

The small town of mainly village-style single-story houses on dusty roads has become a new frontier in the war between Russia and Ukraine.

Ukrainian troops have given up defending the ravaged city of Sievierodonetsk and now face a battle with Russians seeking to encircle neighboring Lysychansk.

Siversk is the last major town en route to Lysychansk, albeit along roads that are severely damaged and under shelling and has Russian forces encroaching from the north and south.

Local people, many of them retirees, complain they feel abandoned by Kyiv.

“The town has really died. And we would like to live a little bit longer,” said Marina, 63, a retired factory worker.

“They’re just basically killing us. It’s dangerous everywhere,” Nina said. “No one needs us, there’s no help from the government. Ukraine has forgotten about us.”

‘Batteries are trending’

Military vehicles including U.S. Humvees and latest-generation U.S. and Soviet-style howitzers, tanks, aid trucks and ambulances constantly pass back and forth through Siversk.

“All day they’ve been coming,” said a policeman at a nearby checkpoint, adding that three vehicles carrying evacuees have gone through “with mainly old people, women and children — there is movement today.”

Driving onto higher ground, dirty smoke rises from a fresh Ukrainian missile launch.

The street van in Siversk is a commercial operation, bringing goods including Polish food from the city of Dnipro, some 300 kilometers away, locals say.

“It’s expensive, of course,” Nina said.

There are also deliveries of humanitarian aid. AFP journalists saw three Red Cross trucks drive up to municipal offices and unload boxes of food including sunflower oil, tea and buckwheat, as well as hygiene items such as razors.

Municipal official Svitlana Severin asked the Red Cross staff to bring more candles, matches and flashlights.

“Batteries are trending,” she said. Flashlights “need power and we don’t know when we’ll get electricity.”

The boxes are put in a storage room. Severin says that in order to minimize crowds, they stagger their handouts, with specific days each month for each social group.

An older woman comes up to the vans indignantly asking why she cannot access the aid and asking for heart medicine.

‘Candles needed’

There are also local initiatives.

Social worker Svetlana Meloshchenko says she and her helpers go round distributing water in milk containers and have given out candles and washing liquids outside the local shop.

“Candles are needed — people spend nights in their cellar,” she said.

“There are a lot of small children, old people, disabled people,” she added, as well as “a lot of people with diabetes.”

“Medicines are supplied to hospitals, but not enough for all,” she said.

Russian troops are firing artillery on the area around Siversk, according to Ukraine’s General Staff.

Nearby, a group of Ukrainian soldiers sprawl in a disused petrol station, eating bread and sausage, their semiautomatic rifles beside them. They say they are going back and forth to the front, without giving details.

“Our cause is the right one,” insisted one young soldier, while another older, bearded man said: “We don’t look at the news.”

“When there’s really good news, we’ll definitely hear about it,” he said, smiling. 

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Biden Arrives in Europe for Summits Focused on Ukraine, Economy

President Joe Biden touched down in Germany on Saturday, where he will attend the G-7 summit with the leaders of key U.S. allies to discuss their united front against Russia and troubling weakness in the world economy. 

Biden flew from Washington to Munich, then boarded the Marine One helicopter for the short flight to the summit location, Schloss Elmau. His first talks during his three-day stay will be with Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany on Sunday. 

The leaders of the seven wealthy democracies, the U.S., Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, will meet in a luxurious castle in Germany’s Alps. 

Then they all head to Madrid for a NATO summit. 

Both sessions will take place in the shadow of Russia’s Ukraine invasion, but also a global surge in inflation, fears of recession, and the ever-growing challenge of containing China while avoiding open conflict. 

Biden has gained widespread praise for restoring U.S. leadership of its European and Asian alliances. The response to Russia in particular has seen strong transatlantic unity, both for arming the Ukrainians and imposing powerful economic sanctions against Moscow. 

But Biden, like several European leaders, is facing pressure at home over fallout from the sanctions, which have helped drive up fuel prices, imposing a heavy drag on economies exiting the COVID-19 shutdown. 

Biden is also burdened at home by a tense political situation ahead of November midterm elections that could see Republicans take back control of Congress for the next two years. 

A ruling by the Supreme Court on Friday to end decades of federal protections for access to abortion has opened a new battlefield, with Biden calling on voters to make it a key issue in November. 

He returned to the issue on Saturday before departing for Europe, saying the Supreme Court had made a “shocking decision.” 

“I know how painful and devastating the decision is for so many Americans,” he said.

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Taliban Urges US to Lift Curbs and Unfreeze Funds to Help Quake-hit Afghanistan

The Taliban renewed their call Saturday for the United States to unfreeze Afghanistan’s foreign funds and lift financial sanctions to help the war-torn country deal with its deadliest earthquake in more than two decades.  

 

The United Nations said humanitarian organizations, in coordination with Taliban authorities, are continuing to provide aid to families in Paktika and Khost, the two southeastern Afghan provinces hardest hit by Wednesday’s 5.9 magnitude earthquake.  

 

“There are, however, unconfirmed reports that between 700 and 800 families are living in the open across three of the six worst-affected districts,” said a U.N. statement Saturday.  

 

“Families living in non-damaged and partially damaged buildings have also reportedly resorted to living out in the open out of fear that there may be further tremors,” the statement added.  

The quake killed 1,150 people, injured about 1,600 and destroyed nearly 3,000 homes, with hundreds more partially damaged, according to Taliban officials. The destruction hit some of the poorest and most remote mountainous Afghan areas near the Pakistan border which lacks the infrastructure to withstand calamities of this scale. At least 121 children were among those killed and the toll is likely to increase, according to the U.N. children’s fund UNICEF.  

Afghan authorities have called off the search for survivors, and they were struggling to deliver critically needed aid due to capacity challenges.

 

“In these testing times, we call on the United States to release Afghanistan’s frozen assets and lift sanctions on Afghan banks so that aid agencies could easily deliver assistance to Afghanistan,” Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said Saturday, while speaking to reporters in the capital, Kabul.

 

U.S. President Joe Biden issued an executive order in February that was aimed at freeing up half the $7 billion in frozen Afghan central bank assets on U.S. soil. The money would be used to benefit the Afghan people while the rest would be held to possibly satisfy terrorism-related lawsuits against the Taliban.

 

“We are urgently working to address complicated questions about the use of these funds to ensure they benefit the people of Afghanistan and not the Taliban,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Saturday.

 

But she reiterated the Biden administration was not waiting and was working through international partners to urgently get aid to the Afghan people.

 

The UNICEF representative in the country, Mohamed Ayoya, visited one of the worst-hit districts in Paktika and described the situation on Twitter.

 

“I saw despair, desolation, suffering, vulnerability but also resilience & acts of solidarity from national businessmen, international organizations & authorities,” Ayoya wrote.  

 

More foreign aid arrives  

 

Meanwhile, Afghan officials said cargo planes from neighboring Pakistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, and the gulf state of Qatar, carrying relief supplies for survivors, landed at the Khost airport.

 

 

Mansoor Ahmad Khan, the Pakistani ambassador in Kabul, said in a Twitter post that his country had also stationed “19 paramedics/doctors…at Khost Airport from 23 June with 3 ambulances & mobile hospital to treat injured & refer serious to hospitals in Pakistan.”

 

China said it would provide humanitarian assistance worth $7.5 million to Afghanistan, including tents, towels, beds and other supplies urgently needed in quake-devastated areas.  

 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Saturday the first batch of supplies was scheduled to depart for the crisis-hit neighbor by charter flights Monday.

 

“In the next few days, China will coordinate closely with the Afghan interim government to ensure the rapid delivery of the relief supplies into the hands of the people in need,” Wenbin said.

 

Britain has also pledged to provide $3 million for immediate life-saving support to Afghans affected by the devastating earthquake.

 

The international community has not yet recognized the Taliban’s interim government since the Islamist insurgent group took over Afghanistan last August, citing concerns over human rights and terrorism.  

 

The Taliban takeover came as U.S. and NATO partners withdrew their final troops, ending almost two decades of foreign military intervention in the South Asian nation.

 

Washington and other Western countries have since halted financial assistance to largely aid-dependent Afghanistan, seized its foreign assets worth more than $9 billion, mostly held by the U.S, and isolated the Afghan banking system.

 

The actions and long-running terrorism-related sanctions on senior Taliban leaders have thrown cash-strapped Afghanistan into a severe economic crisis, worsening an already bad humanitarian crisis blamed on years of war and persistent drought.

 

The United Nations estimates that 97% of Afghanistan’s 40 million people will be living below the poverty line this year.  

 

U.S. Acting Political Counselor Trina Saha told a U.N. Security Council meeting Thursday that the Afghan earthquake was a devastating blow to a population that is already suffering gravely.

 

“We call for urgent donor assistance to relief efforts,” she said. Saha added that “the earthquake highlights the vulnerability of the Afghan people and underscores the dire need for continued humanitarian assistance.”

 

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Protesters at US Supreme Court Decry Abortion Ruling Overturning Roe v. Wade

Hundreds of protesters descended on the U.S. Supreme Court Saturday to denounce the justice’s decision to overturn the half-century-old Roe v. Wade precedent that recognized women’s constitutional right to abortion.

The sweeping ruling by the court, with a 6-3 conservative majority, was set to vastly change American life, with nearly half the states considered certain or likely to ban abortion.

Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas suggested the court’s reasoning could also lead it to reconsider past rulings protecting the right to contraception, legalizing gay marriage nationwide, and invalidating state laws banning gay sex.

The crowd featured both abortion opponents wearing T-shirts reading “I am the Pro-Life Generation” and abortion rights supporters chanting “my body, my choice.”

“The Supreme Court has made some terrible decisions,” Democratic President Joe Biden said Saturday. He added that the White House would look to police how states enforce bans, with administration officials having already signaled they plan to fight attempts by states to ban a pill used for medication abortion.

“The decision is implemented by states,” Biden said. “My administration is going to focus on how they administer and whether or not they violate other laws.”

Christian conservatives had long fought to overturn Roe, with Friday’s ruling a cherished win that was the result of a long campaign to appoint justices opposed to abortion to the top court. The ruling had the support of all three justices appointed by former President Donald Trump.

It is at odds with broad public opinion. A Reuters/Ipsos poll last month found that about 71% of Americans – including majorities of Democrats and Republicans – said decisions about terminating a pregnancy should be left to a woman and her doctor, rather than regulated by the government. That support is not absolute: 26% of respondents polled said abortion should be legal in all cases, while 10% said it should be illegal in all cases, with the majority supporting some limits.

The ruling will likely influence voter behavior in the November 8 midterm elections, when Biden’s Democrats face a high risk of losing their razor-thin majorities in the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate. Some party leaders hope the decision will win over suburban swing voters, though activists expressed disappointment and demoralization at suffering such a defeat while their party held total power in Washington.

“They can ask for vote for more power, but don’t they already have the Congress and the White House?” said Patricia Smith, a 24-year-old supporter of abortion rights, who was headed to the Supreme Court to protest. “They have not been able to pass much in terms of legislation despite the power, so what is the point?”

The decision came just a day after the court issued another landmark ruling finding that Americans have a constitutional right to carry a concealed gun for protection – leading them to invalidate a New York state law that set strict limits on concealed carry permits.

The two rulings showed an aggressively conservative court ready to flex its muscle and remake American life at a time when Congress is often deadlocked and struggles to pass major policy changes.

It also signaled that Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative who preferred to act incrementally, no longer holds the power to slow the court’s action. Roberts had voted to support the Mississippi abortion ban that was the subject of Friday’s decision, but it did not vote to overturn Roe itself.

During a call with journalists Saturday, a group of Democratic state attorneys general said they would not use their offices to enforce abortion bans.

“We are not going to use the resources of the Wisconsin Department of Justice to investigate or prosecute anybody for alleged violations of the 19th century abortion ban,” said Josh Kaul, that state’s attorney general. “I’ve also encouraged district attorneys, sheriff prosecutors and police chiefs in our state not to use their resources to investigate or prosecute abortions.”

The White House on Saturday said it would challenge any efforts by states to restrict women’s ability to travel out of their home state to seek an abortion. 

Tears, Anger at the “Pink House”

The case that led to Friday’s decision revolved around a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, before the fetus is viable outside the womb.

The Jackson Women’s Health Organization, nicknamed the “Pink House” because of its bubble gum-colored paint, was named in the case. The clinic was still operating on Saturday morning, with escorts showing up to the state’s sole abortion clinic about 5 a.m. to prepare for the arrival of patients.

Anti-abortion protesters began setting up ladders to peer over the property’s fence and large posters with messages, including “abortion is murder” not long after.

Coleman Boyd, 50, a longtime protester outside the clinic who frequently comes with his wife and children to shout gospel through a bullhorn, incorrectly told women waiting for appointments that they were violating the law.

In truth, Mississippi’s law will not shut down the clinic for another nine days. Boyd called the Roe ruling “history” but “definitely not a victory,” noting that he wanted to see an end to abortion in all states.

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Protesters Gather in US Cities in Support of Abortion Rights

Protesters are gathering in cities across the United States to demonstrate against the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overrule a constitutional right to abortion that had been in place for nearly 50 years.

The ruling by the court leaves it to states to decide whether to allow abortions, overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that had guaranteed women a right to an abortion in the initial stages of pregnancy.

Crowds gathered in New York, Atlanta, Detroit and Los Angeles, among other cities.

One person was hit by a truck in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Friday during a protest. The victim’s injuries were minor, police said.

Hundreds of protesters in New York City chanted “Overturn Roe, hell, no” and “Rise up for abortion rights.”

In Washington, both supporters and opponents of abortion rights began gathering outside the Supreme Court building after the court made its announcement Friday.

The crowd is expected to increase in size throughout the weekend.

A group of Democratic lawmakers addressed abortion-rights demonstrators outside the U.S. Capitol, with progressive U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez chanting “into the streets.”

Abortion-rights opponents cheered Friday’s ruling, dancing, playing music and chanting “Goodbye, Roe.”

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said the city’s chief of police is working with federal authorities to “make sure that people have the ability to exercise their First Amendment rights [to demonstrate] safely.”

Meanwhile, Washington’s local police department announced Friday that its force has been fully activated.

U.S. President Joe Biden urged Americans on Friday to remain peaceful when protesting the Supreme Court decision.

While he said he knows many Americans are “frustrated and disillusioned,” he said violence must be avoided.

“Violence is never acceptable. Threats and intimidation are not speech. We must stand against violence in any form, regardless of your rationale,” he said.

Department of Homeland Security officials warned in a new, updated analysis obtained by VOA that domestic violent extremists (DVEs) will likely seek to exploit the Supreme Court ruling “to intensify violence against a wide range of targets.”

“We expect violence could occur for weeks following the release, particularly as DVEs may be mobilized to respond to changes in state laws and ballot measures on abortion stemming from the decision,” according to the analysis. “We base this assessment on an observed increase in violent incidents across the United States following the unauthorized disclosure in May of a draft majority opinion on the case.”

Friday’s ruling came less than two months after an early draft of the court’s opinion was leaked to a news site, setting off nationwide protests by abortion-rights activists.

The governors of the West Coast states of California, Oregon and Washington issued a joint statement Friday saying their states will remain locations where reproductive health care will be accessible and protected.

VOA’s National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin contributed to this report. Some information came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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President Biden Signs Bipartisan Gun Safety Bill Into Law; Takes Swipe at Supreme Court

U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday signed a bipartisan gun safety bill into law — the first major federal gun reform in three decades, days after the Supreme Court expanded gun rights.

“This is monumental day,” Biden said at the White House, with his wife Jill by his side. “God willing, it’s going to save a lot of lives.”

The Supreme Court on Thursday declared for the first time that the U.S. Constitution protected an individual’s right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense. Gun control has long been a divisive issue in the nation with several attempts to put new controls on gun sales failing time after time.

The new legislation includes provisions to help states keep guns out of the hands of those deemed to be a danger to themselves or others and blocks gun sales to those convicted of abusing unmarried intimate partners. It does not ban sales of assault-style rifles or high-capacity magazines.

The law does take some steps on background checks by allowing access, for the first time, to information on significant crimes committed by juveniles. It also cracks down on gun sales to purchasers convicted of domestic violence.  

It provides new federal funding to states that administer “red flag” laws intended to remove guns from people deemed dangerous to themselves and others.

Biden said he would host an event in July for victims of gun violence to mark the bill’s signing.

“Their message to us was do something … today we did,” said Biden.

The President also repeated his criticism of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Friday, which eliminated the constitutional right to abortion nationwide, and said his administration was going to focus on how states implemented the decision and make sure they did not violate other laws.

“Is the Supreme Court broken? The Supreme Court has made some terrible decisions,” Biden said. “Jill and I know how painful and devastating the decision is for so many Americans and I mean so many Americans. We’re going to take action to protect women’s rights and reproductive health.”

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US Supreme Court Ruling Could Trigger Anti-Abortion Laws in at Least 13 States

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which has guaranteed a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion for almost 50 years, is set to activate anti-abortion laws in at least 13 states.

While some of the so-called “trigger laws” have been in place for years, others have been enacted more recently. Some states could activate their anti-abortion laws immediately, with others following shortly thereafter.

The 13 states that have laws that would ban or halt abortions with the Supreme Court’s overturn Friday of Roe are Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.

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Suspected Terror-Linked Shooting In Oslo Kills 2, Wounds 14

An overnight shooting in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, that killed two people and wounded more than a dozen is being investigated as a possible terrorist attack, Norwegian police said Saturday.

In a news conference Saturday, police officials said the man arrested after the shooting was a Norwegian citizen of Iranian origin who was previously known to police but not for major crimes.

They said they had seized two firearms in connection with the attack: a handgun and an automatic weapon.

The events occurred outside the London Pub, a bar popular with the city’s LGBTQ community, hours before Oslo’s Pride parade was due to take place. Organizers canceled all Pride events planned for Saturday on the advice of police.

“Oslo Pride therefore urges everyone who planned to participate or watch the parade to not show up. All events in connection with Oslo Prides are canceled,” organizers said on the official Facebook page of the event.

Police spokesperson Tore Barstad said 14 people were receiving medical treatment, eight of whom have been hospitalized.

Olav Roenneberg, a journalist from Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, said he witnessed the shooting.

“I saw a man arrive at the site with a bag. He picked up a weapon and started shooting,” Roenneberg told NRK. “First I thought it was an air gun. Then the glass of the bar next door was shattered and I understood I had to run for cover.”

Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said in a Facebook post that “the shooting outside London Pub in Oslo tonight was a cruel and deeply shocking attack on innocent people.”

He said that while the motive was unclear, the shooting had caused fear and grief in the LGBTQ community.

“We all stand by you,” Gahr Stoere wrote.

Christian Bredeli, who was at the bar, told Norwegian newspaper VG that he hid on the fourth floor with a group of about 10 people until he was told it was safe to come out.

“Many were fearing for their lives,” he said. “On our way out we saw several injured people, so we understood that something serious had happened.”

Norwegian broadcaster TV2 showed footage of people running down Oslo streets in panic as shots rang out in the background.

Norway is a relatively safe country but has experienced violent attacks by right-wing extremists, including one of the worst mass shootings in Europe in 2011, when a gunman killed 69 people on the island of Utoya after setting off a bomb in Oslo that left eight dead.

In 2019, another right-wing extremist killed his stepsister and then opened fire in a mosque but was overpowered before anyone there was injured.

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Romanian Port Struggles to Handle Flow of Ukrainian Grain

With Ukraine’s seaports blockaded or captured by Russian forces, neighboring Romania’s Black Sea port of Constanta has emerged as a main conduit for the war-torn country’s grain exports amid a growing world food crisis.

It’s Romania’s biggest port, home to Europe’s fastest-loading grain terminal, and has processed nearly a million tons of grain from Ukraine — one of the world’s biggest exporters of wheat and corn — since the Feb. 24 invasion.

But port operators say that maintaining, let alone increasing, the volume they handle could soon be impossible without concerted European Union support and investment.

“If we want to keep helping Ukrainian farmers, we need help to increase our handling capacities,” said Dan Dolghin, director of cereal operations at the Black Sea port’s main Comvex operator.

“No single operator can invest in infrastructure that will become redundant once the war ends,” he added.

Comvex can process up to 72,000 metric tons of cereals per day. That and Constanta’s proximity by land to Ukraine, and by sea to the Suez Canal, make it the best current route for Ukrainian agricultural exports. Other alternatives include road and rail shipments across Ukraine’s western border into Poland and its Baltic Sea ports.

Just days into the Russian invasion, Comvex invested in a new unloading facility, anticipating that the neighboring country would have to reroute its agricultural exports.

This enabled the port over the past four months to ship close to a million tons of Ukrainian grain, most of it arriving by barge down the Danube River. But with 20 times that amount still blocked in Ukraine and the summer harvest season fast approaching in Romania itself and other countries that use Constanta for their exports, Dolghin said it’s likely the pace of Ukrainian grain shipping through his port will slow.

“As the summer harvest in Romania gathers momentum, all port operators will turn to Romanian cereals,” he warned.

Ukraine’s deputy agricultural minister, Markian Dmytrasevych, is also worried.

In an address to the European Parliament earlier this month, Dmytrasevych said that when Constanta operators turn to European grain suppliers in the summer “it will further complicate the export of Ukrainian products.”

Romanian and other EU officials have also voiced concern, lining up in recent weeks to pledge support.

On a recent visit to Kyiv with the leaders of France, Germany and Italy, Romanian president Klaus Iohannis said his country was seeking possible ways of overcoming the “weaponization of grain exports by Russia.”

“As a relevant part of the solution to the food insecurity generated by Russia, Romania is actively involved in facilitating the transit of Ukraine exports and in serving as a hub for grain,” to reach traditional markets in the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Asia, he said.

The solutions discussed in Kyiv, Iohannis said, included speeding up Danube barge shipments, increasing the speed of their unloading at Romanian ports, new border crossings for trucks with Ukrainian grain and reopening a decommissioned railway linking Romania with Ukraine and Moldova.

A Romanian analyst said finding alternative routes for Ukraine’s grain exports goes beyond private logistics companies or any single country, echoing Iohannis’s call in Kyiv for an international “coalition of the willing” to tackle the problem.

“The situation in Ukraine will not be solved soon; the conflict may end tomorrow but tensions will last. … That is why new transport routes must be considered and consolidated,” said George Vulcanescu.

He said that in that sense there are just three financially viable routes for Ukrainian exports — via Romania, Poland or the Baltic states.

However, he added, “port operators need financial support from Romanian authorities, but the funding should come from the European Union.”

Vulcanescu said a combination of fast and “minimal, not maximal” investment is needed.

“Big investment cannot be done quickly — we need to look for fast solutions for expanding the (existing) storage and handling capacities of Romanian ports,” he added. “If we want to help Ukraine now, we need to look for smaller investment to improve the infrastructure we already have.”

Comvex’s Dolghin said the operator wants to help as much as possible, but added: “We hope to see concrete action, not only statements in support of the port operators.”

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UN Weekly Roundup: June 18-24, 2022    

Here is a fast take on what the international community has been up to this past week, as seen from the United Nations perch.

UN chief warns risk of multiple famines in 2021 

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told an international conference on food security Friday in Berlin that the world is facing the “real risk” of multiple famines this year and that 2023 could be even worse. He said rising fuel and fertilizer prices are dramatically affecting the world’s farmers.  

UN Chief Says World Faces ‘Real Risk’ of Multiple Famines This Year 

Earthquake rocks Afghanistan as Security Council urges respect for rights 

The U.N. Security Council expressed sympathy for the Afghan people on Thursday in the aftermath of the deadly earthquake, while it continued to press Taliban authorities to reverse restrictions on women and to stabilize the country.   

At UN, Taliban Are Pressed to Reverse Rights Restrictions

Guterres appeals for renewal of cross-border aid operation for Syria 

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council on Monday that it is a “moral imperative” for the 15 members to renew a cross-border aid operation from Turkey into northwest Syria that assists more than 4 million people. The council must vote on renewing the mechanism by July 10. Russia says it prefers all aid to go through Damascus. U.N. humanitarian officials say that would be inadequate to meet the scale of need, which is the highest it has been since the war started in 2011.

UN Chief Appeals for Cross-Border Aid Into NW Syria

In brief    

— Friday marked four months since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The U.N. says more than 12 million Ukrainians have been uprooted by the conflict. It is scaling up its assistance and is now reaching nearly 9 million people with aid. In the east of the country, where fighting is intense, the organization says it needs access to civilians in need. 

— The U.N. expressed concern Thursday at reports that Myanmar’s military junta has transferred ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest to prison, where she is being held in solitary confinement. Antonio Guterres’ spokesman said the development “goes against everything we’ve been calling for, which was her release and the release of the president and all of the other political prisoners, and we are concerned for her state.” 

— The U.N. said Friday that across northern Ethiopia’s Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions, 13 million people need food and other assistance. The region had been cut off to aid for months, but since convoys started entering in early April, more than 120,000 tons of food and supplies have been delivered. But aid distribution is being hindered by fuel shortages. Two million liters per month is needed, but less than half of that has entered the region in the past three months.   

— A U.N. study says 222 million children and adolescents worldwide have had their education disrupted by multiple crises. Education Cannot Wait said Wednesday that conflict, displacement, the COVID-19 pandemic and climate-induced disasters are the main culprits. The study found that 78.2 million children have dropped out of school — a troubling development education, experts say, as they are unlikely to resume their education, which will have lifelong repercussions.

Quote of note     

“Access to safe, legal and effective abortion is firmly rooted in international human rights law and is at the core of women’s and girls’ autonomy and ability to make their own choices about their bodies and lives, free of discrimination, violence and coercion. This decision strips such autonomy from millions of women in the U.S., in particular those with low incomes and those belonging to racial and ethnic minorities, to the detriment of their fundamental rights.”  

— Michelle Bachelet, U.N. high commissioner for human rights, reacting to the U.S. Supreme Court decision Friday removing a 50-year-old constitutional right to a legal and safe abortion for American women.

Next week

The United Nations said Thursday it will broker new talks between Libyan politicians from rival institutions in a bid to break a deadlock on the rules for long-awaited elections.

Read more on the political situation here: UN to Hold New Libya Talks as Stalemate Persists

Did you know? 

Friday was the first International Day of Women in Diplomacy. The U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution by consensus on June 20 put forward by the Maldives making it an annual commemoration. Only one-fifth of the current ambassadors to the United Nations in New York are women — about 44.

U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said in a tweet that the international community must keep fighting for women’s leadership.

 

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US Farmers Welcome New Approach to Indo Pacific Trade Policy

President Joe Biden’s proposed Indo Pacific Economic Framework with key Asian nations signals a new approach for U.S. trade policy in the region. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, U.S. farmers are optimistic the Framework will provide new markets for their goods.
Camera: Kane Farabaugh Producer: Kane Farabaugh

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Ex-Minneapolis Officer Who Killed 911 Caller to be Released

The former Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot an unarmed woman who called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her home is scheduled to be released from prison next week, months after his murder conviction was overturned and he was resentenced on a lesser charge.

Mohamed Noor, 36, is scheduled to be released from custody Monday, according to online Department of Corrections records.

Noor was initially convicted of third-degree murder and manslaughter in the 2017 fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a 40-year-old dual U.S.-Australian citizen and yoga teacher. But last year, the Minnesota Supreme Court tossed out his murder conviction and 12½-year sentence, saying the murder charge didn’t apply to the circumstances of this case.

He was resentenced to four years and nine months on the manslaughter charge.

In Minnesota, it’s presumed that a defendant with good behavior will serve two-thirds of a sentence in prison and the rest on supervised release, commonly known as parole. The DOC’s website says Noor will be on supervised release until Jan. 24, 2024.

Damond’s father, John Ruszczyk, said Friday that the family was disappointed that Noor’s third-degree murder conviction was overturned.

“His release after a trivial sentence shows great disrespect to the wishes of the jury who represented the communities of Minneapolis and their wish to make a statement about the communities’ expectations of police behavior and actions,” Ruszczyk wrote in response to emailed questions from The Associated Press.

After his conviction, Noor began serving his time at Minnesota’s maximum-security prison in Oak Park Heights, but the Minneapolis newspaper, the Star Tribune, reported he was transferred to a facility in North Dakota in July 2019 for his safety. Department of Corrections spokesman Nicholas Kimball said Noor is still out of state but did not specify where.

“For safety reasons, we aren’t able to provide more detail than what is available on the public website, which is the scheduled date of release,” Kimball said.

It wasn’t clear whether Noor would return to Minnesota. His attorney, Tom Plunkett, declined to comment, saying, “at this point I just want to respect Mr. Noor’s privacy.”

Damond’s killing angered citizens in the U.S. and Australia and led to the resignation of Minneapolis’ police chief. It also led the department to change its policy on body cameras; Noor and his partner didn’t have theirs activated when they were investigating Damond’s 911 call.

Noor testified at his 2019 trial that he and his partner were driving slowly in an alley when a loud bang on their police SUV made him fear for their lives. He said he saw a woman appear at the partner’s driver’s side window and raise her right arm before he fired a shot from the passenger seat to stop what he thought was a threat.

Damond was a meditation teacher and life coach who was killed about a month before her wedding. Her maiden name was Justine Ruszczyk, and though she was not yet married, she had already been using her fiance’s last name.

Her fiance, Don Damond, declined to comment on Noor’s pending release, but said during Noor’s resentencing that he had forgiven the former officer, and that he had no doubt Justine also would have forgiven him “for your inability in managing your emotions that night.”

Noor, who is Somali American, was believed to be the first Minnesota officer convicted of murder for an on-duty shooting. Activists who had long called for officers to be held accountable for the deadly use of force applauded the murder conviction but lamented that it came in a case in which the officer is Black and his victim was white.

Since Noor’s conviction, former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, was convicted of murder in the May 2020 killing of George Floyd, a Black man who was pinned to the pavement under Chauvin’s knee. Chauvin’s colleague, Thomas Lane, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting manslaughter, while two other officers are awaiting trial on charges of aiding and abetting both murder and manslaughter. All four have been convicted on federal charges of violating Floyd’s rights.

In another case, former Brooklyn Center Officer Kim Potter was convicted of manslaughter after she said she mistook her Taser for her handgun when she fatally shot Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black motorist, during a traffic stop last year.

Days after Noor’s conviction, Minneapolis agreed to pay $20 million to Damond’s family, believed at the time to be the largest settlement stemming from police violence in Minnesota. It was surpassed last year when Minneapolis agreed to a $27 million settlement in Floyd’s death just as Chauvin was going on trial.

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18 Migrants Died in Mass Crossing into Spanish Enclave, Morocco Says

Morocco said 18 migrants died trying to cross into Spain’s North African enclave of Melilla on Friday, after a violent two-hour skirmish between migrants and border officers that also led to scores of injuries.

About 2,000 migrants stormed a high fence that seals off the enclave. This led to clashes with security forces as more than 100 migrants managed to cross from Morocco into Melilla, Moroccan and Spanish authorities said.

Morocco’s Interior Ministry initially said five migrants had died in the border raid, some after falling from the fence surrounding Melilla and others in a crush, and that 76 migrants were injured. It later said an additional 13 had died.

Some 140 members of Moroccan security forces were also injured, it added, five seriously, though none of them died.

Over the past decade, Melilla and Ceuta, a second Spanish enclave also on Africa’s northern coast, have become magnets for mostly sub-Saharan migrants trying to get into Europe.

Friday’s attempt began about 6:40 a.m. in the face of resistance from Moroccan security forces.

Two hours later, more than 500 migrants began to enter Melilla, jumping over the roof of a border checkpoint after cutting through fencing with a bolt cutter, the Madrid government’s representative body there said in a statement.

Most were forced back, but about 130 men managed to reach the enclave and were being processed at its reception center for immigrants, it added.

Footage posted on social media showed large groups of African youths walking along roads around the border, celebrating entering Melilla, and the firing of what appeared to be tear gas by the authorities.

Spanish authorities said the border incursion led to 57 migrants and 49 Spanish police sustaining injuries.

‘Human trafficking mafias’

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez paid tribute to officers on both sides of the border for fighting off “a well-organized, violent assault” which he suggested was organized by “human trafficking mafias.”

He underscored the improvement in relations between Madrid and Rabat. In March, Spain recognized the position of Morocco toward the Western Sahara, a territory the North African nation claims as its own but where an Algeria-backed independence movement is demanding establishment of an autonomous state.

“I would like to thank the extraordinary cooperation we are having with the Kingdom of Morocco which demonstrates the need to have the best of relations,” he said.

AMDH Nador, a Moroccan human rights group, said the incursion came a day after migrants clashed with Moroccan security personnel attempting to clear camps they had set up in a forest near Melilla.

The watchdog’s head, Omar Naji, told Reuters that clash was part of an “intense crackdown” on migrants since Spanish and Moroccan forces resumed joint patrols and reinforced security measures in the area around the enclave.

The incursion was the first significant one since Spain adopted its more pro-Rabat stance over Western Sahara.

In the weeks of 2022 prior to that shift, migrant entries into the two enclaves had more than tripled compared with the same period of 2021.

In mid-2021, as many as 8,000 people swam into Ceuta or clambered over its fence over a couple of days, taking advantage of the apparent lifting of a security net on the Moroccan side of the border following a bilateral diplomatic spat.

 

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Supreme Court Ends Constitutional Right to Abortion in America

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday overruled a constitutional right to abortion in America, leaving it to states to decide whether to permit the procedure that has been legal nationwide for five decades.

“The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision,” Associate Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his majority opinion, joined by four other conservative justices. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

The ruling came less than two months after an early draft of Alito’s decision was leaked to a news site, setting off nationwide protests by abortion-rights activists.

While the high court’s overturning of its 1973 ruling in the case known as Roe v. Wade and a separate case called Planned Parenthood v. Casey does not impose a ban on abortion, its legal impact will ripple through the country almost immediately.

The Guttmacher Institute, an abortion-rights research group, estimates that 26 states, mostly in the South and Midwest, will ban abortion in the wake of Roe v. Wade’s repeal. That could force millions of women seeking abortions to travel to states where abortion rights are protected.

“[O]ne result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens,” wrote Associate Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, the court’s liberal members, in a spirited dissent.

At the White House, President Joe Biden condemned the ruling but implored protesters to remain peaceful.

“Let’s be very clear: The health and life of women in this nation are now at risk,” Biden said. “It’s a sad day for the country.”

In a statement, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department “strongly disagrees with the court’s decision” and “will work tirelessly to protect and advance reproductive freedom.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling came in a closely watched case involving a Mississippi law that bans nearly all abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy, several weeks before the cutoff stage established under Roe v. Wade.

Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only abortion clinic in Mississippi, challenged the 2018 law in federal court, arguing that it would violate nearly 50 years of Supreme Court precedent.

After two lower courts sided with the clinic, the state of Mississippi, backed by 25 other Republican-controlled states, went to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the justices to overturn both Roe and Casey. Their petition claimed that “nothing” in the Constitution “supports a right to abortion.”

Six of the high court justices, all appointed by Republican presidents, agreed. Chief Justice John Roberts concurred in upholding the Mississippi law but indicated he would not have gone further in ending the constitutional right to abortion.

Few issues in America are as divisive as abortion. For the past 50 years, American conservatives, driven by a desire to protect unborn life, have campaigned against the Roe v. Wade ruling. But they lacked the votes on the high court to overturn it.

That changed after Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election and put three abortion-rights opponents on the high court. That gave conservatives a 6-3 majority on the powerful court, raising the likelihood that abortion rights would be overturned.

Trump reacted with jubilation to Friday’s ruling, saying in a statement, “Today’s decision, which is the biggest WIN for LIFE in a generation, along with other decisions that have been announced recently, were only made possible because I delivered everything as promised, including nominating and getting three highly respected and strong Constitutionalists confirmed to the United States Supreme Court.”

Generally, the Supreme Court follows principles established in its prior rulings, a doctrine known as stare decisis. The dissenting justices wrote that the ruling violated this long-standing legal precept.

But Alito said that there are circumstances where a precedent can be and has been overturned. In a landmark ruling in 1954, for example, the Supreme Court invalidated an 1896 decision that had legalized racial segregation in the United States, Alito noted.

Alito wrote that the court’s ruling was limited to abortion and would not affect other rights. But liberal critics of the decision worry the decision will open the door to overturn other rights recognized by the Supreme Court.

“If you strike down a law based on a fundamental disagreement with the legal reasoning that underpins it, the same exact arguments will allow the other decisions to be overturned,” said Caroline Fredrickson, a law professor at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at the left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice.

Although Friday’s ruling did not come as a surprise after the draft opinion had been leaked, it set off a tidal wave of reaction in Washington and across America.

“This is a great day for preborn children and their mothers,” Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, a prominent group opposing abortion rights, said in a statement. “The Court has correctly decided that a right to abortion is not in the [C]onstitution, thereby allowing the people, through their elected representatives, to have a voice in this very important decision.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, hailed the ruling as “courageous and correct” and “an historic victory for the Constitution and for the most vulnerable in our society.”

“Today is one of the darkest days our country has ever seen,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said in a statement. “Millions upon millions of American women are having their rights taken from them by five unelected justices.”

“This decision is the worst-case scenario, but it is not the end of this fight. The 8 in 10 Americans who support the legal right to abortion will not let this stand,” Mini Timmaraju, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, a leading abortion rights group, said in a statement. “There is an election in November, and extremist politicians will learn: When you come for our rights, we come for your seats.”

News of the ruling made headlines across the globe. While the Vatican’s Academy for Life praised the Supreme Court’s decision as a challenge to the world to reflect on life issues, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called it “a huge blow to women’s human rights and gender equality.” 

 

In a statement, Bachelet added, “More than 50 countries with previously restrictive laws have liberalized their abortion legislation over the past 25 years. With today’s ruling, the U.S. is regrettably moving away from this progressive trend.”

In anticipation of the ruling, states across the country, depending on their legislatures’ ideological leanings, have been changing their abortion rules.

In conservative states, in addition to passing “trigger laws” designed to take effect after Roe is overturned, lawmakers have moved to tighten restrictions on abortion, with Oklahoma enacting a law in March that bans abortion at any point during pregnancy.

For their part, some liberal-leaning states have responded by passing legislation to expand access to abortion, with some states considering laws that would allow nurses to carry out the procedure.

The court ruling came despite growing public acceptance of abortion. A Gallup Poll conducted after the court’s draft decision was leaked in May indicated that 55% of Americans identified as “pro-choice,” the highest level of such sentiment since the mid-1990s.

Still, abortion remains a politically divisive issue that is likely to live on well past Roe’s demise. Abortion-rights groups are gearing up to challenge new state bans and restrictions in state courts, setting off protracted legal battles.

“Part of the issue is that you have to find some protections within the state constitutions in order to bring these cases,” said Elizabeth Nash, a state policy analyst for the Guttmacher Institute.

Complicating efforts to challenge state abortion bans, four states — Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee and West Virginia — have passed constitutional amendments that say the state constitution does not recognize the right to abortion, Nash noted. In two others — Kansas and Kentucky — voters are expected to cast ballots on the issue later this year.

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Supreme Court Ends Constitutional Right to Abortion in America

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday overruled a constitutional right to abortion in America, leaving it to states to decide whether to permit the procedure that has been legal nationwide for five decades.

“The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision,” Associate Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his majority opinion, joined by four other conservative justices. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

The ruling came less than two months after an early draft of Alito’s decision was leaked to a news site, setting off nationwide protests by abortion-rights activists.

While the high court’s overturning of its 1973 ruling in the case known as Roe v. Wade and a separate case called Planned Parenthood v. Casey does not impose a ban on abortion, its legal impact will ripple through the country almost immediately.

The Guttmacher Institute, an abortion-rights research group, estimates that 26 states, mostly in the South and Midwest, will ban abortion in the wake of Roe v. Wade’s repeal. That could force millions of women seeking abortions to travel to states where abortion rights are protected.

“[O]ne result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens,” wrote Associate Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, the court’s liberal members, in a spirited dissent.

At the White House, President Joe Biden condemned the ruling but implored protesters to remain peaceful.

“Let’s be very clear: The health and life of women in this nation are now at risk,” Biden said. “It’s a sad day for the country.”

In a statement, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department “strongly disagrees with the court’s decision” and “will work tirelessly to protect and advance reproductive freedom.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling came in a closely watched case involving a Mississippi law that bans nearly all abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy, several weeks before the cutoff stage established under Roe v. Wade.

Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only abortion clinic in Mississippi, challenged the 2018 law in federal court, arguing that it would violate nearly 50 years of Supreme Court precedent.

After two lower courts sided with the clinic, the state of Mississippi, backed by 25 other Republican-controlled states, went to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the justices to overturn both Roe and Casey. Their petition claimed that “nothing” in the Constitution “supports a right to abortion.”

Six of the high court justices, all appointed by Republican presidents, agreed. Chief Justice John Roberts concurred in upholding the Mississippi law but indicated he would not have gone further in ending the constitutional right to abortion.

Few issues in America are as divisive as abortion. For the past 50 years, American conservatives, driven by a desire to protect unborn life, have campaigned against the Roe v. Wade ruling. But they lacked the votes on the high court to overturn it.

That changed after Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election and put three abortion-rights opponents on the high court. That gave conservatives a 6-3 majority on the powerful court, raising the likelihood that abortion rights would be overturned.

Trump reacted with jubilation to Friday’s ruling, saying in a statement, “Today’s decision, which is the biggest WIN for LIFE in a generation, along with other decisions that have been announced recently, were only made possible because I delivered everything as promised, including nominating and getting three highly respected and strong Constitutionalists confirmed to the United States Supreme Court.”

Generally, the Supreme Court follows principles established in its prior rulings, a doctrine known as stare decisis. The dissenting justices wrote that the ruling violated this long-standing legal precept.

But Alito said that there are circumstances where a precedent can be and has been overturned. In a landmark ruling in 1954, for example, the Supreme Court invalidated an 1896 decision that had legalized racial segregation in the United States, Alito noted.

Alito wrote that the court’s ruling was limited to abortion and would not affect other rights. But liberal critics of the decision worry the decision will open the door to overturn other rights recognized by the Supreme Court.

“If you strike down a law based on a fundamental disagreement with the legal reasoning that underpins it, the same exact arguments will allow the other decisions to be overturned,” said Caroline Fredrickson, a law professor at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at the left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice.

Although Friday’s ruling did not come as a surprise after the draft opinion had been leaked, it set off a tidal wave of reaction in Washington and across America.

“This is a great day for preborn children and their mothers,” Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, a prominent group opposing abortion rights, said in a statement. “The Court has correctly decided that a right to abortion is not in the [C]onstitution, thereby allowing the people, through their elected representatives, to have a voice in this very important decision.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, hailed the ruling as “courageous and correct” and “an historic victory for the Constitution and for the most vulnerable in our society.”

“Today is one of the darkest days our country has ever seen,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said in a statement. “Millions upon millions of American women are having their rights taken from them by five unelected justices.”

“This decision is the worst-case scenario, but it is not the end of this fight. The 8 in 10 Americans who support the legal right to abortion will not let this stand,” Mini Timmaraju, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, a leading abortion rights group, said in a statement. “There is an election in November, and extremist politicians will learn: When you come for our rights, we come for your seats.”

News of the ruling made headlines across the globe. While the Vatican’s Academy for Life praised the Supreme Court’s decision as a challenge to the world to reflect on life issues, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called it “a huge blow to women’s human rights and gender equality.” 

 

In a statement, Bachelet added, “More than 50 countries with previously restrictive laws have liberalized their abortion legislation over the past 25 years. With today’s ruling, the U.S. is regrettably moving away from this progressive trend.”

In anticipation of the ruling, states across the country, depending on their legislatures’ ideological leanings, have been changing their abortion rules.

In conservative states, in addition to passing “trigger laws” designed to take effect after Roe is overturned, lawmakers have moved to tighten restrictions on abortion, with Oklahoma enacting a law in March that bans abortion at any point during pregnancy.

For their part, some liberal-leaning states have responded by passing legislation to expand access to abortion, with some states considering laws that would allow nurses to carry out the procedure.

The court ruling came despite growing public acceptance of abortion. A Gallup Poll conducted after the court’s draft decision was leaked in May indicated that 55% of Americans identified as “pro-choice,” the highest level of such sentiment since the mid-1990s.

Still, abortion remains a politically divisive issue that is likely to live on well past Roe’s demise. Abortion-rights groups are gearing up to challenge new state bans and restrictions in state courts, setting off protracted legal battles.

“Part of the issue is that you have to find some protections within the state constitutions in order to bring these cases,” said Elizabeth Nash, a state policy analyst for the Guttmacher Institute.

Complicating efforts to challenge state abortion bans, four states — Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee and West Virginia — have passed constitutional amendments that say the state constitution does not recognize the right to abortion, Nash noted. In two others — Kansas and Kentucky — voters are expected to cast ballots on the issue later this year.

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