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Roe v. Wade 50th anniversary: Abortion supporters and opponents reflect on what would have been

The decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling led to abortion bans in 14 states, including Missouri.

ST. LOUIS — All weekend protests and celebrations happened across the country, as people gathered together for what would have been the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. 

Nearly seven months ago, the United States Supreme Court stripped away the nation's constitutional protections for abortion, after nearly a half-century. 

The decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling has led to abortion bans in 14 states, including Missouri. 

Jan. 22, 2023, brought on a mix of emotions for many.

Anti-abortion activists celebrated, after nearly 50 years of fighting for change. 

Abortion rights advocates spent the day still trying to wrap their heads around a post-Roe world. 

Rachel Laser, Americans United president and CEO, said she is grieving rather than rejoicing. 

"It's heavy to greet a 50th anniversary...that should be a celebration...knowing that unbelievably that right...that so many of us took for granted is taken away," she said.

Laser said she never thought she would be feeling this way on the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. 

"I couldn't believe that we would actually get to this point, and I find it so upsetting. I have daughters and a son...and I love being a mom and love the fact that my whole life...I've really had it available to me...to make my own decisions about my own body," she said.

Laser just visited St. Louis this past week, on Jan. 19, to file a lawsuit with a group of local religious leaders, challenging Missouri's abortion ban.

Related article: Who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade? | ksdk.com

Related article: Abortions in Missouri after SCOTUS overturns Roe v. Wade | ksdk.com

Americans United has been around for 75 years and is committed to fighting for the separation of church and state. 

"It's pretty devastating that that freedom...those freedoms...aren't available...and let's be honest...who are they not available to the most? I mean, they're not available the most to folks who are marginalized," she said.

Brian Westbrook, Coalition Life executive director, described Jan. 22 as 'an important day in the history of the United States.'

"We don’t look backwards, we look forwards. When we look forward to what we need to do next -- there’s so much work ahead of us -- here in the pro-life movement. Both here in St. Louis and Missouri, but also, Illinois," he said.

Westbrook's pro-life organization, Coalition Life, focuses on helping women in crisis pregnancies. 

He said even though the overturn of Roe v. Wade was in their favor, abortions still continue. 

"Abortions across the nation, the number of abortions, has not dropped dramatically. Maybe about 5% across the nation, so we look to the future and look at states, like Illinois. The woman, here in Missouri, about 9,000 of them per year are still leaving the state to go and get abortions elsewhere," Westbrook said.

That's why him and his team are putting resources into Illinois, where abortion is still legal.

"These are real threats to the pro-life movement and most importantly to the woman and children that they impact," Westbrook said.

While both sides have differing opinions, neither are stopping their fight.

"If we believe in the power of our voices, that is how we make change, and we will win in the long run," Laser said.

"We are always working hard cause the unborn child is always at risk for abortion," Westbrook said.

Congresswoman Cori Bush has been incredibly vocal, since Roe v. Wade was overturned. 

She released this statement Sunday:

“Freedom grants a person control over their own minds, bodies, and futures, and it is this belief in freedom, as well as the right to privacy, that resulted in the landmark Roe v. Wade decision 50 years ago. The Roe v. Wade decision was not only historic in that it protected people accessing abortions; it also served as precedent for several more court cases and laws to follow that would further advance gender equality, reproductive rights, and our collective freedoms. Unfortunately, we all know what happened last June. Republicans spent decades stacking the federal judiciary with far-right anti-abortion judges and successfully stripped millions of people of their right to safe, legal, and accessible abortion care, particularly Black, brown, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized communities. And let's be clear, Republicans aren’t stopping with Roe. In just their first couple of days in power, House Republicans passed two anti-abortion bills in a blatant attempt to lay the groundwork for a national abortion ban. As a Congresswoman, a mother, a pastor, and as a person who has had abortions, I will never stop fighting for a person’s bodily autonomy, reproductive rights and for a country that lives up to its proclamation of freedom.”

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