With Republicans defending overturning of Roe v. Wade, leading Democratic women call on President Biden and Congress to protect abortion rights nationwide.
Elected leaders across the US political divide have rallied for a long fight ahead on abortion –– state by state and in Congress –– with total bans in force or expected soon in half of the vast country.
Two days after the US Supreme Court scrapped half-century constitutional protections for the procedure, abortion rights defenders kept up their mobilisation, with a candlelight vigil outside the high court in Washington on Sunday night.
Dozens of arrests and some instances of vandalism were reported during a weekend of mostly peaceful protests that turned disorderly in places –– as the country grapples with a new level of division: between states where abortion is or will soon be illegal, and those that still allow it.
Conservative-led US state legislatures have moved swiftly, with at least eight imposing immediate bans on abortion –– many with exceptions only if a woman's life is in danger –– and a similar number to follow suit within weeks.
READ MORE: Protests across US after Supreme Court overturned abortion protections
'Appropriate' use of power
Defending the ban now in effect in South Dakota, which makes no exception for victims of rape or incest, Republican Governor Kristi Noem called the Supreme Court's ruling "wonderful news in the defence of life."
Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas likewise argued that "forcing someone to carry a child to term" in order to save an unborn baby was an "appropriate" use of government power.
States now should now focus on helping mothers and newborns by expanding services including adoption, he said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
But the Republican also opposed calls to go further with a federal abortion ban –– an ultimate goal of many on the religious right –– or restrictions on contraception, which he said is "not going to be touched" in Arkansas.
READ MORE: US Supreme Court ends constitutional protections for abortion
President Joe Biden has condemned the Supreme Court's ruling as a "tragic error" –– but with power now resting with often anti-abortion state legislatures, he has also acknowledged his hands are largely tied.
The conservative-dominated court, by overturning "Roe v. Wade," is "literally taking America back 150 years," Biden charged.
The president's main hope is for voters to turn out in defence of abortion rights in November's midterm elections –– and in the meantime, Biden's Democrats have vowed to defend women's reproductive rights every way they can.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez warned nightmare scenarios may soon come true –– as women are forced to continue with unwanted pregnancies, travel long distances to states where abortion remains legal, or undergo clandestine abortions.
"Forcing women to carry pregnancies against their will will kill them. It will kill them," the progressive lawmaker told NBC, urging Biden to explore opening health care clinics on federal lands in conservative states in order to help people access abortion services.
READ MORE: Thousands demonstrate across US against scrapping abortion rights