On June 24, the unspeakable happened. A government branch, not elected by the American people, stripped away rights from half the population. Many women feel an overwhelming sense of fear, disappointment, sorrow and other emotions for which there are no words.
There is concern for people in states with trigger bans that have now gone into effect, many of whom might not have the resources or time to travel out of state for a medical procedure.
We are left with an endless array of questions. Will the states that are fully banning abortions make exceptions for life-threatening and nonviable pregnancies such as ectopic or molar pregnancies? Will miscarriages, which happen naturally, become criminalized? What if women with miscarriages are accused of abortions?
According to Planned Parenthood, 10%–20% of pregnancies end in a miscarriage. If women are criminally charged for miscarriages and abortions, is this not an attack on women’s right to vote (as the “crime” would likely be a felony)?
How can a country that so heavily pushes the ideal of freedom place restrictions on the bodies of its people?
When the news broke, various organizations made statements reiterating their support for women’s health and outlining steps people could take in response to the ruling.
“We must fight like hell for reproductive justice,” says Camila Chavez, executive director of the Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF).
“DHF will register, educate and mobilize voters for the November elections. We will work harder than ever to ensure that our voices will be heard in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., to fight for choice.”
“The consequences of this indefensible decision will be swift and devastating,” noted a statement from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
“Half the states are expected to ban abortion, denying 36 million women and other people who can become pregnant in those states the right to decide for themselves whether and when to become a parent.
“The harm of this ruling will fall hardest on people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ+ communities, young people and people struggling to make ends meet.”
The Women’s Media Center stated that “the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade is a backlash at the women’s movement of epic proportions. It throws out 50 years of safe and legal abortion. It threatens the lives, health and future of women. It is a travesty of justice.
“The Women’s Media Center fights for inclusion, equality and representation. We stand for reproductive freedom and the right to make your own decisions about reproductive health. We are in this fight for the long term. We will not stop.”
These organizations warn us that this is not where the fight ends. Not only will we continue to fight for women’s rights but we must also watch out for other rights this Supreme Court might take away. Rulings on gay marriage, contraceptives and even same-sex marriage could also be subject to change.
Natives across the country are also deeply afraid as the Supreme Court will be ruling on a case that falls under the Indian Child Welfare Act. This law prohibits agencies from removing Native children from the families who have custody.
The Indian Child Welfare Act gives tribes full jurisdiction (over custody/adoption of children from their tribes) and blocks the American government from intervening or taking these children and placing them into the adoption/foster systems. This is especially troubling as the American government doesn’t have the best track record taking care of Native children.
There are a few postive notes, including the fact that various companies are pledging to pay travel expenses for their employees if they need to go to another state for an abortion. Dick’s Sporting Goods, a nationwide chain with more than 50,000 employees, has promised to provide up to $4,000 in travel expenses for employees who need to travel for an abortion.
Other companies offering to pay for the travel of employees: Starbucks, Tesla, Yelp, Airbnb, Netflix, Patagonia, DoorDash, PayPal, JP Morgan Chase, Levi Strauss & Co., Disney, Meta, Conde Nast, Zillow, Lyft, Uber, Buzzfeed and Reddit, among others.
California Governor Gavin Newsom states that “women will be protected in California.” He has gone on social media to share that this November Californians will have the opportunity to vote on a state constitutional amendment protecting the right to abortion.
He also signed an executive order that solidifies California as a safe haven for those who come here seeking an abortion. He made it clear that California will not hand over patients or cooperate with out-of-state investigations attempting to extradite doctors for providing care to out-of-state patients. This is in addition to $200 million going toward expanding reproductive care in the state.
Outside of California, individuals are working hard to protect our human rights. A Louisiana judge has temporarily blocked the state’s anti-abortion trigger laws at the request of Hope Medical Group for Women. This block will stay in place until July 8 and hopefully will be extended.
Planned Parenthood has issued various statements regarding the Supreme Court’s devastating decision. It will continue offering abortions where possible and continue to support patients as much as possible.
“Make no mistake—this decision goes beyond abortion. This wrongful ruling is about who has power over you, who has the authority to make decisions for you, and who can control how your future is going to be,” notes a statement from Planned Parenthood.
“It throws away nearly 50 years of precedent and goes against the will of the American people. We will not go quietly. We will fight this. Abortion is and will continue to a part of our nation’s history.
“We are the overwhelming majority. And we will make sure every single politician pursuing these extreme bans and restrictions is held accountable for this disastrous and dangerous decision.
“Reproductive health, rights and justice organizations cannot do this alone. California and Californians must meet this moment—millions of people are counting on us.”
Although at times it feels hopeless, there are things we can do. Vote, donate if you can and pay attention to what is going on.
“Unspeakable”? Really? The overturning of Roe v. Wade has been plenty speakable for the past 50 years among right-wing reactionaries. For decades they have been speaking insistently and with urgency about getting Roe overturned. And their efforts have paid off because good people of progressive intention deemed it “unspeakable,” and failed to understand what was happening. Words and ideas and speaking all matter, because only when we speak something can we get hold of its reality and begin to influence what happens.
Democrats could have legislated the right to abortion, but chose instead to do other things, because they imagined that overturning Roe was “unspeakable” and they pinned their hopes on the legal doctrine of stare decisis—a Latin phrase that really just comes down to judges’ notion that things decided one way in the past should always be decided the same way in the future. Nothing requires stare decisis. It is just a collective understanding among judges and lawyers that the world ought to work that way.
The progressive movement has been living through an era when people believed that things decided would stay decided—that progress was a ratchet. But that hasn’t really been true; it has only ever been a mirage. And the Supreme Court of the United States has now proven that. There is no ratchet. There is no precedent. Nothing is “unspeakable.” And until progressive people wake up to this reality, we will continue to lose ground for a just and inclusive society.
The fascists are not at the gate: they are inside the city, and they are on the bench, and they are poised to take everything else. Because, for them, their authoritarian victory has been not just speakable, but something of which they have actually spoken and ideated for decades.
Here is what we need to speak: the dangers of retrograde authoritarianism and white nationalism and toxic masculinity are real, and they are close; but they are not really what people want; people want peace, and to be happy, and loved, and welcome in their community. The fascists are deeply insecure; in the depths of their souls, they are afraid that they are wrong. Friends, that is because they ARE wrong. But until the truth is spoken everywhere, injustice will prevail.