The Mississippi River cuts the agglomeration of Saint-Louis in two. To the west, on the Missouri side, is the city of Saint-Louis, capital of the blues, founded in 1764 by a French fur trader in memory of Louis IX, overlooked by a majestic arch which symbolizes the door to the west. American. On the other side, on the Illinois side, stands East Saint-Louis, a declining industrial municipality.
These days, the river seems rather to separate two Americas. If the Supreme Court repeals the “Roe vs. Wade” decision, which legalized abortion in 1973, Missouri, a Republican state with a large evangelical population, would immediately ban voluntary termination of pregnancy ( IVG), with some exceptions. For its part, Illinois, a democratic state in the Midwest, has already reaffirmed that all candidates for abortion would be welcome on its territory.
→ EXPLANATION. What is “Roe vs. Wade”, the decision on which the right to abortion in the United States is based?
Illustration of the differences that are looming between pro and anti-abortion states, the conflict between the two neighbors is not new. In Missouri, the number of clinics fell sharply. At issue: the establishment of strict regulatory barriers (obligation for doctors to have admission privileges in local hospitals, minimum width of corridors, size of doors, etc.). In 2020, only 167 abortions took place in the last state clinic to perform one, in Saint-Louis. That is a drop of 97% in ten years. “In reality, we already live in a post-Roe world,” breathes Mallory Schwarz, director of the association Pro Choice Missouri.
“The most disadvantaged populations will be the most affected”
For years, women have therefore crossed the Mississippi to benefit from the more favorable laws of Illinois. Some go to the Hope Clinic for Women, located next to a steel plant a few minutes from the border. The women who follow are poor and almost all African-American. “The most disadvantaged populations will be the most affected by the ban on abortion”, says Alison Dreith, partnerships manager at the Midwest Access Coalition (MAC).
→ REPORT. Abortion in the United States: “I didn’t think I had to fight for women’s rights in 2022”
For this Ilinois-based organization, which covers the costs of the poorest patients, the time has come ” reinforcement “. “Since the revelation at the beginning of May of the working document of the Supreme Court (hitting a glimpse of the repeal of the Roe vs. Wade decision, editor’s note), donations are on the rise. We are now planning to strategize to raise more funding and grow. »
She’s not the only one getting organized. In Saint-Louis, ThriVe is also active. In its brightly colored modern building, this pregnancy center wants to offer an alternative to abortion. It allows pregnant women to access various services (parenting courses, housing, medical care, social assistance, medical tests, etc.) in the hope that they will give up abortion. The team prides itself on not being moralistic – a failing that has sometimes done the pro-life movement a disservice, deemed too aggressive towards women. “We take a good Samaritan approach,” says its charismatic African-American director, Bridget Van Means.
Many court battles between States to come
Structures of this type, often backed by Christian organizations, are multiplying. “The fight against abortion is the great humanitarian issue of our time. There are many wealthy donors willing to fund care facilities centered on desperate women because they believe in the value of life from conception,” says Bridget Van Means.
Present in six states, ThriVe wants to expand ” rapidly on the territory, in particular thanks to telemedicine. “Hundreds of thousands of women across the country, who have been told all their lives ‘my body, my choice’, will be stressed or even angry that they no longer have access to abortion. We therefore need to increase our resources to respond to the increase in volume. »
Endless legal battles
The Supreme Court’s final decision on abortion is due to be announced in June, but questions are already flying across the Mississippi. In March, Conservative Missouri Congresswoman Mary Elizabeth Coleman proposed allowing ordinary citizens to sue individuals who help Missouri women access abortions in another state. An unprecedented situation in recent American history, where the federated states do not have the power to legislate outside their borders.
“The fact that life is less well protected depending on where you are in the country is an aberration. And the idea that you have to kill your child to succeed economically is revolting! », insists the elected, Catholic mother of six children, who has become the face of the pro-life struggle in Missouri.
→ EXPLANATION. In the United States, incessant battles around abortion
Professor specializing in abortion at Drexel University (Pennsylvania), David Cohen fears that the repeal of Roe vs. Wade could give rise to endless legal battles between the States. Especially since the emergence of telemedicine and medical abortion, which can be performed using pills sent by post, increases the temptation of conservative states to adopt unprecedented laws with extraterritorial reach. “If Roe vs. Wade ends, we’re going to see states take a lot of extreme measures to limit patient travel or criminalize women who have abortions,” he explains.
American public opinion open to compromise
►Demonstrations in favor of the legalization of abortion are planned for Saturday, May 14 in the streets of many American cities, following the call of multiple organizations.
►Public opinion seems rather open to compromise: according to a survey published in early May by the Pew Research Center institute, only less than one in three Americans is in favor of legalization or a ban without exception.
►Also according to this survey, 61% of Americans think abortion should be legal, a figure that has been relatively stable since 1995.
►As with so many other societal issues, the gap between Democrats and Republicans is wide, and more marked than fifteen years ago: eight out of ten Democrats are in favor of abortion being legally authorized (63% in 2007), compared to only 38% among Republicans (39% in 2007).