'Always had hope': US anti-abortion activist eyes historic win

·3-min read

Madelyn Ocasio can hardly believe the good news. At 66, the anti-abortion activist from the outskirts of Miami hopes her dream of seeing the US Supreme Court roll back half a century of abortion rights is finally about to come true.

Like her, opponents of abortion across the country are eyeing a historic win after a leaked draft ruling indicated the court is likely poised to strike down Roe v. Wade, the ruling that enshrined abortion rights nationwide in 1973.

"We felt in our hearts that Roe would be overturned this year," said Ocasio, who works with the national anti-abortion group Sidewalk Advocates for Life.

"I have always had hope, but I have more hope now," she told AFP from the garden of her house in Coral Gables on the edge of Miami, in front of banners that read "Abortion hurts women" and "Abortion kills children."

"And I do hope that all the protests do not deter the justices," she added, anticipating a huge backlash against the Supreme Court.

"Life begins at conception, and it is not a woman's right" to terminate a pregnancy, Ocasio said.

Now, like other Florida activists, she wants officials in the southern US state, led by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, to ban elective abortions very soon.

"In our state, they passed the law to ban abortion after 15 weeks (of pregnancy), but I feel it's not enough," she said. "We should have stronger laws in Florida to ban abortion completely."

If the Supreme Court does overturns Roe v. Wade, abortion laws instantly would be left up to individual US state legislatures, with as many as half expected to enact bans or new restrictions.

For many women, the potential loss of abortion rights across swaths of the United States raises the prospect of being forced to travel hundreds of miles for the procedure or giving birth in traumatic circumstances.

In that context, what happens in Florida will be closely followed in the rest of the country. Not only is it considered a melting pot of cultures, it is also a swing state, a highly contested electoral battlefield between Republicans and Democrats.

- 'Time for action' -

The leak of the draft opinion from within the Supreme Court ignited a firestorm in the country, with abortion rights activists and Democratic politicians, including President Joe Biden, rushing to denounce it.

But in Florida the battles lines were being drawn as well: as Biden urged supporters to rally to the polls to defend women's right to a safe abortion, the state's Republican senator Rick Scott hit out at Democrats and called for toughening abortion laws.

"Every life is precious & should be protected. Today's Democrat Party refuses to accept that," he said.

Echoing that message, the anti-abortion organization Florida Voice for the Unborn urged DeSantis to act quickly, upon news of the likely Supreme Court decision.

In a letter sent Tuesday to the governor, the association urged him to work on "legislation that will prohibit all abortions within Florida, except in very rare circumstances when a mother's life is in danger."

"The time for action is NOW! Governor DeSantis must act to save Florida's unborn children," said the letter seen by AFP.

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