Last year, I stood side by side with thousands of women protesting the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, eliminating 50 years of precedent protecting women’s reproductive freedoms. I was surrounded by mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers who were outraged that their daughters would now have fewer rights than they did. These women hadn’t only come together to speak out against the Dobbs decision—they were out in force because they knew extreme far-right elected officials within the Republican Party wouldn’t stop attempting to restrict abortion.
They were right.
Less than a year after the Supreme Court gutted reproductive rights, right-wing extremists are back to finish the job and limit women’s freedoms even in pro-choice states where abortion is legal. A new lawsuit in Texas, backed by the same anti-choice groups that campaigned to overturn Roe, aims to institute a nationwide ban on a pill, mifepristone, the first pill in a two-step medication abortion—the most common abortion method for American women. Mifepristone has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for more than two decades. Despite scientific evidence to support medication abortion as safe and effective, nationwide access to the pill may ultimately be decided by the right-wing Supreme Court, with a ruling in the Texas case expected any day now.
This is a deeply cynical move by far-right extremists who have spent the last 50 years working to turn back the clock on women’s rights. In the Dobbs case, right-wing Republicans lobbied the Supreme Court to revoke women’s freedom to make their own health care decisions under the guise of “states’ rights.” Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion insisted the decision to overturn Roe would “return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”
This latest effort to effectively ban the abortion pill mifepristone nationwide shows anti-choice extremists are once again seeking the help of anti-abortion judges to use the court to erode women’s reproductive rights.
Let’s be clear: Far-right extremists claimed abortion was a states’ rights issue when it was convenient, and now they’re going after the freedoms of every woman seeking reproductive health care, even those living in pro-choice states.
Take my home state of Nevada, for example. In 1990—well before women’s rights were endangered by a conservative Supreme Court—Nevadans overwhelmingly voted to codify reproductive freedoms. More than 30 years later, 69 percent of state residents (including a majority of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats) consider themselves pro-choice. Nevada is among other pro-choice states across the country that have become safe havens for women seeking to make their own decisions about their bodies, and in the post-Roe era, health care centers in these states have taken in more and more women traveling across state lines to get the care they need. In bringing these attacks on the abortion pill to the courts, right-wing extremists are infringing on the rights of the states that still protect women.
If they succeed, don’t expect Americans to dismiss the decision’s devastating impact. Last fall, I was in the most competitive election in the country, with most national pundits predicting I would lose and cost Democrats our majority in the Senate. But they underestimated how strongly Americans feel about women’s rights. Everywhere I went on the campaign trail, I heard from men and women, from Republicans and Democrats, and in both rural and urban areas. They all agreed politicians shouldn’t be making women’s health care decisions. Those Nevadans rose up and re-elected me, joining tens of millions of Americans in battleground states across the country who defied history and elected pro-choice leaders during one of the most challenging midterm elections in recent memory.
Thanks to pro-choice voters across America, far-right extremists failed to get their Senate majority and won’t have an opportunity to pass their federal abortion ban. But that hasn’t stopped them; instead, they’re attempting to take away women’s rights through the same means they used to take down Roe: our courts. Americans are paying attention. When the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade and placed women’s rights in politicians’ hands, countless Americans lost faith in the Court. Now, extreme politicians are reversing their position on states’ rights to get the abortion pill banned in pro-choice states like mine, sending a clear message that their main objective is to take away women’s freedoms, no matter the cost. But women will keep fighting back, and we aren’t going to let them continue to drag us backwards.
Catherine Cortez Masto is the senior US Senator from Nevada and the former Attorney General of Nevada.