US abortion debate promises a noisy and divisive road ahead


Expect to hear plenty about abortion in America over the next few months.

It will be impassioned and heartfelt but angry and polarised.

Abortion is such a divisive issue, and in America especially it touches on so many strands of society: politics, equality rights, race and religion.

Today, in the shadow of the Washington Monument, not far from the White House, it was the turn of the “pro-choice” campaigners to be heard.

In a celebration of the right to choose, and under a banner “Bans off our bodies”, thousands gathered as part of a countrywide effort to preserve abortion access.

The speakers addressed the crowd with an urgency that reflects the shock leak from the Supreme Court this month.

The leak revealed that a majority of the court’s nine judges are minded to overturn the constitutional right American women have to choose abortion.

In an instant, the leak electrified the pro and anti-abortion movements.

“We need to get out here and fight for our rights! It’s completely unfair to let some bunch of old men and people who are completely out of touch with the rest of America choose our fate,” marcher Olivia told me.

“We are the land of the free. You shouldn’t be driving across state lines to try to get something that’s so integral and that so many people have figured out and yet we’re ‘free’ but we have not figured it out,” Christa Vonderberg said.

We don’t know exactly when the decision by the judges will come; only that it will be by July.

The six men and three women of the conservative-leaning court will rule on an issue which isn’t just profoundly personal for so many people, it touches so many aspects of life here.

It has become about politics, religion, race, equality. But above all, many here argue, it is, simply, a healthcare issue, a basic right of choice.

The near total banning of abortion in many states across America would, it’s argued, create a profound healthcare crisis as women turn underground or are forced to have children who they cannot care for.

Even the terminology is contentious. One side casts itself as “pro-life”. The other identifies as “pro-choice”.

Yet those who are pro-choice resent the idea that the pro-lifers’ label infers that they are anti-life.

Pro-choicers point out that pro-lifers are pro the life of an unborn foetus and seem to care little about the lives of the young, often very poor women who would be forced to give birth.

Pro-lifers are deeply angered by the other side’s assertion that they are pro-choice given that they don’t give the aborted baby any choice.

It is an issue which cuts to the core of what America means, what it stands for.

The energy and the drive from just one side of the debate today hints at a noisy and divisive road ahead.

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