With Roe Gone, Here’s How to Save Abortion Rights

TIt was widely believed that Roe V. Wade had been overturned by the Supreme Court. No time for mourning, let’s get to work on what we must do to save our fundamental reproductive rights.

First, let’s take a moment to unpack the Court’s ruling. A majority of ultra-conservative Supreme Court justices has abrogated federal protections for abortion rights. No floor exists for abortion rights. No restrictions are placed on the state’s ability to ban or restrict abortion.

Justice Alito’s majority opinion claims to be simply returning the decision about whether to criminalize abortion into the hands of state legislators to make law for women and girls within their borders. Justice Kavanaugh adds that the constitution is “neutral” on the abortion issue. But this blatantly ignores the Court’s historic and central role as protector of our fundamental rights.

According to policy analysts, 26 states could now legalize abortion. The other half may take effect right away. It is likely that there will be many abortion deserts in the United States. A large proportion of black women will be facing criminal charges for pregnancy.

Justice Alito’s opinion shamelessly reverses direction on decades of Supreme Court precedent that had moved to curtail sex and gender discrimination and recognize greater rights for women and LGBTQ+ individuals. In doing so it puts at risk a whole family of privacy rights cases, including Roe’s jurisprudential cousins that protect the right to contraception and marriage equality. As the dissenting opinion by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan notes, the majority telling us “not to worry” about the eradication of abortion rights, is like someone “telling you that the Jenga tower simply will not collapse.” Indeed.

The Court shows its true colors when it ruminates that it is “hard for anyone —and in particular, for a court — to assess…the effect of the abortion right on society and in particular on the lives of women.” Really? Stop any woman on Main Street, USA or in any college dining hall and I’m pretty sure she could easily tell you the importance of legal abortion to her well-being and her ability to control her own destiny.

At its heart, the right to abortion allows you to control when, where and with whom you have your child. It is a human right that is essential to a person’s dignity, bodily autonomy and freedom from sex discrimination. As the dissent aptly notes, the majority’s opinion “reveals how little it knows or cares about women’s lives or about the suffering its decision will cause.”

It is fortunate that the Court majority view in America is only a minor viewpoint. Recent polling shows that 66% Americans don’t want Roe to change. That number is up since Dobbs’ draft leaked to the public last month.

Let’s pull ourselves up by our pantsuits and get to work.

First of all, we must vote in this election to elect courageous and motivated federal, state, local and municipal officials who will take immediate action to ensure access to abortion. Protecting abortion rights does not require every red state to turn blue and we can’t be party purists. At every candidate debate and meet-and-greet ask candidates what they would do now to prevent the loss of reproductive health.

Continue reading: Roe’s Roe Decision on Abortion.

The midterm elections for Congress are an obvious first step: gaining an abortion rights majority in the Senate would allow passage of the Women’s Reproductive Health Act. But there’s no solution that is only federal. State and local elections are equally important.

The expansion of abortion rights will require the election of governors across the country. There are six options to elect women who have demonstrated leadership in expanding abortion rights: Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Georgia’s Senator Stacey Abrams, Massachusetts’ Attorney General Maura Shealey, Massachusetts’ Attorney General Maura Haley, Maine’s Governor Janet Mills and Kansas’s Governor Janet Mills. New York’s Governor Kathy Hochul is also available. Let’s add Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers as honorary members of this necessary-governors club.

Support candidates for key election at all levels, regardless of your location. In Texas’ Attorney General contest, Rochelle Garza has a good chance to beat Ken Paxton if we grace her with our dollars, postcards and phone calls. At the county level in Hennepin County Minnesota Saraswati Singh, candidate to County Attorney, passionately advocates for police accountability, prosecution of violent crime, and not locking up women who are responsible for their own health. The laudable prosecutors in Virginia, Michigan, and Austin, Texas have also declared that they won’t enforce unfair laws against pregnant women and those helping them to end their pregnancy. If elected, these candidates will create a ripple effect that preserves reproductive freedom for others.

The next step is to aid women living in abortion-banning states: Send money, legal advice, and pills. To defend women, girls and pregnant persons, we need lawyers. To end a safe pregnancy, you can use medication abortion pills. This is an alternative to the back-alley abortions which were common in pre-Roe times. FDA may be able to ease medically unneeded restrictions on vital medicines.

It is important to provide financial support for those forced to move to access abortion services. Non-profit abortion funds such as Access Reproductive Healthcare Southeast, Women’s Reproductive Rights Access Project, and Brigid Alliance assist with medical fees, lodging, transportation, childcare, and other travel expenses. These funds will be in need of public and private funding as well as philanthropy now more than ever.

Blue states facing the swell of abortion refugees’ arrival must immediately expand their number of available abortion facilities. To make abortion services accessible, it is crucial to open urgent care clinics and, as California has done, mandate that public universities provide health care services. Permitting certified nurse midwives and physician assistants to offer medication and surgical abortion – as a handful of states already permit — will go a long way to easing the shortage of physicians and can reduce costs. New York, California and other states have given public funding to support people who travel for abortions. This is a good model that needs replication.

Both on the street and at the boardroom level, we need to work together to end the stigma surrounding abortion and make it a pressing human rights problem. In countries such as Colombia, Argentina and Mexico where abortion has been decriminalized, the Green Wave has succeeded in recognizing abortion as an individual human right. In the United States, the reproductive justice organization, which was started by women from color in the 1980s has decades-long experience in advocating abortion for a set of rights that includes the right to have children and provide adequate resources. It’s time all of us joined in speaking loudly and proudly about what abortion means to us, our freedom, our lives, and our loved ones.

Now is not a time to bemoan what we’ve lost but to get to work to build back better, and fairer, access to true reproductive freedom.

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