Abortion, contraception and other forms of reproductive health care are under attack in the United States like never before following the supreme court ruling last year eliminating a federal constitutional right to terminations, the country’s health secretary has said.
US health and human services (HHS) secretary Xavier Becerra said since the ruling last June women seeking care were “being put in dangerous situations with heartbreaking results”.
This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark Roe v Wade ruling, which found women in the United States had a federal constitutional right to seek an abortion. It was this ruling that the US supreme court overturned last summer in what is known as the Dobbs case, regarding abortion services in Mississippi.
‘Even with the wonderful blessing of ‘Roe v Wade’ being overturned, the necessary work to build a culture of life in the United States of America is not finished’
In the Dobbs ruling the supreme court sent the issue of abortion back to politicians to decide in individual states, which has resulted in different rules applying in various parts of the country.
Just over a dozen states have virtually eliminated access to abortion while others have expanded it and set out protections in law.
On Thursday the court said an internal investigation had failed to identify the person who had leaked a draft of the Dobbs ruling several weeks before it was formally announced.
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The court’s marshal, Gail Curley, who oversaw the inquiry, said investigators had conducted 126 formal interviews of 97 employees, all of whom had denied being the source of the leak. But several employees acknowledged that they had told their spouses or partners about the draft opinion in violation of the court’s confidentiality rules, the report said.
“No one confessed to publicly disclosing the document and none of the available forensic and other evidence provided a basis for identifying any individual as the source of the document.”, it said.
The report described the leak of the supreme court draft ruling to the Politico news organisation last May as “one of the worst breaches of trust in its history”.
It is unclear whether supreme court justices and their spouses were interviewed as part of the investigation process into the leak.
The White House ‘continues to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with women and families who face this frightening new reality in states across the nation’
On Friday, anti-abortion activists rallied in Washington as part of the annual “march for life”, which has been taking place each year since the original Roe v Wade decision in 1973.
On its website the March for Life organisation said that “even with the wonderful blessing of ‘Roe v Wade’ being overturned, which allows more freedom at the state level to enact pro-life laws, the necessary work to build a culture of life in the United States of America is not finished [but] rather it is focused differently”.
Becerra, the health secretary, said on foot of the Dobbs ruling women now had fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers. However, he said the White House “continues to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with women and families who face this frightening new reality in states across the nation”.
“This anniversary reminds us of what America’s women lost as a result of the Dobbs decision, and of the importance of HHS’s work to protect and expand women’s access to reproductive health care. Our work won’t stop until all women have access to this critical care.” He said following the ruling his agency had worked to protect and expand access to reproductive care “amidst unprecedented efforts by Republican officials at the national and state level to restrict access to abortion and contraception”.
He said his agency had focused on six core priorities:
- Protecting access to abortion services
- Safeguarding access to birth control
- Protecting patient privacy
- Promoting access to accurate information
- Ensuring non-discrimination in healthcare delivery
- Evidence-based decision making at the Food and Drug Administration (which regulates medicines and drugs)
March for Life said that “sadly, the number of abortions annually is still well over 900,000 each year, and that number is expected to decrease only by roughly 200,000 each year in a post-Roe America”.
It said many national legislative battles still loomed, including the fight to maintain existing measures – known as the Hyde protections – which restricted government funding for abortion services.
“With the role of the states being more important, we are also growing a strong state march for life initiative quickly, however, we will continue to march every January at the national level until a culture of life is restored in the United States of America,” it said on its website.