Clinics have begun closing in some US states after a Supreme Court ruling on Friday removed American women’s constitutional right to abortion.
About half of states are expected to introduce new restrictions or bans after the court overturned its 50-year-old Roe v Wade decision. Of these 13 have outlawed abortion instantly, reports the BBC.
President Joe Biden described the ruling as “a tragic error”.
Protests are under way in cities across the US.
In Phoenix, Arizona, police fired tear gas after pro-choice protesters banged on the doors and windows of the state capitol. In Los Angeles protesters briefly blocked traffic on a highway.
At an abortion clinic in Little Rock, Arkansas – a state with a so-called trigger law allowing an instant ban – the doors to the patient area shut as soon as the court’s opinion was posted online and sobbing could be heard. Staff made calls to tell women that their appointments were cancelled.
“No matter how hard we prepare for bad news, when it finally hits, it hits hard. Having to call these patients and tell them Roe v Wade was overturned is heartbreaking,” nurse Ashli Hunt told the BBC.
Escorts at the clinic, who stood in the Arkansas heat day in and day out to accompany patients through the throng of protesters, held a group hug. “I thought that this country would still care about people. Would still care about women,” said Miss Karen, the lead escort.
Outside, anti-abortion protesters celebrated.
“You are on notice!” shouted a protester at people still parking their cars at the clinic who had not heard about the decision yet. “My suggestion is for you turn around and leave this place of sin, this place of inequity, this evil place.”
In New Orleans, Louisiana – another trigger law state – the Women’s Health Care Centre, one of only three abortion providers in the state, was closed and its staff had gone home.
Outside the clinic, volunteer escort Linda Kocher told the BBC that rich women would still be able to access abortions in other states but “poor women will end up in a back alley” for illegal procedures. But anti-abortion campaigner Pastor Bill Shanks said it was a “day for celebration”.
Overall, the Supreme Court ruling is expected to mean about 36 million women of reproductive age will lose access to abortion in their states, according to research from Planned Parenthood, a healthcare organisation that provides abortions.