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Overturning Roe V. Wade: How the Supreme Court’s Consequential Ruling Impacts Black Women Everywhere

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Staff
The impact of the Supreme Court’s historic reversal of Roe V. Wade was immediate with Planned Parenthood and abortion clinics in at least nine states— Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Utah — turning away women seeking planned abortions and sending shockwaves throughout the nation.
Simply put, the court —in a 5-4 decision, ruled that the Constitution did not protect the right to abortion, and instead—after half a century— placed the decision squarely in the hands of state lawmakers.
“We hold that Roe and [1992’s Planned Parenthood vs.] Casey must be overruled,” read the 79-page opinion written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. and joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. “The Constitution,” Alito continues, “makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely — the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
“Roe,” Alito contends, “was on a collision course with the Constitution from the day it was decided.”
“The Court’s decision to overrule Roe and Casey is a serious jolt to the legal system,” wrote Roberts, who joined the courts three liberal justices— Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan in dissenting.
“Because laws in 1868 deprived women of any control over their bodies, the majority approves States doing so today. Because those laws prevented women from charting the course of their own lives, the majority says States can do the same again. Because in 1868, the government could tell a pregnant woman — even in the first days of her pregnancy — that she could do nothing but bear a child, it can once more impose that command,” they stated.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the court’s action “a slap in the face to women about using their own judgment to make their own decision about their reproductive freedom.”
Kamala Harris called it a direct assault on freedom on the fundamental right of self-determination to which all Americans are entitled.
Reverend Al Sharpton dubbed it as “a blatant attempt to bring us back to the dark ages.”
What’s clear is that the resounding decision has sharply divided the nation as conservatives who have been working to reverse Roe V. Wade for decades and played a key role in getting President Trump to commit to appoint Supreme Court justices who oppose abortion—are not only pushing for abortion bans in every state but are hinting at a national ban if they retake Congress in November.
Despite the fact that opinion polls show that most Americans support access to abortion particularly in the early months of a pregnancy, in 2022 alone, almost 550 abortion restrictions have been introduced across more than 40 states. Twenty-two states have enacted measures to ban abortions and four additional states already restrict abortion and are likely to have bans in effect soon. Louisiana has even advanced a bill that would classify abortion as a homicide and there is even concern surrounding the collection of data from menstrual cycle tracking apps in states where abortions have been banned.
Experts agree that for women of color, who have fewer resources and are already struggling to cover basic needs such as childcare and housing and may be without transportation or disposable income— the ruling is particularly devastating.
“It is women who cannot afford to do [travel] who will suffer most,” wrote dissenting justices Sotomayor, Kagan, and Breyer. “These are the women most likely to seek abortion care in the first place.”
“Make no mistake, this is not just an attack on women’s autonomy: this is class warfare, sexism and systemic racism at work,” said Melanie Campbell, President & CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and Convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable. “Who pays the price when abortions are outlawed? Poor women, women of color, women & girls who have been raped or molested and the millions of women who already have limited access to high quality healthcare.”
In a great many cases the clinics that offer abortion services are also the first choice for general gynecological care as well as cancer screenings and the like. The ban on abortions is already impacting miscarriage care, given that when a woman suffers a miscarriage, she needs to take medication to empty the uterus and eliminate risk of infection utilizing the same medication used for medication abortion. It could also have an impact on access to IVF.
Unlike 1972 when Roe V. Wade was being argued in the Supreme Court, women in the early phase of pregnancy can safely administer abortion at home using either a combination of two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, or misoprostol alone, though checkups from a health professional are recommended before and after.
Antiabortion groups are working to block the distribution of abortion medication through the mail—and compelling women to carry a pregnancy to term even in cases where it is clear the fetus would not survive, while also seeking to file civil lawsuits against those who fund abortions or offer practical support to women seeking abortions.
Beyond the physical, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen maintained that restricting access to abortions would have “very damaging effects on the economy.”
“Access to reproductive health care, including abortion, helped lead to increased labor force participation,” Yellen said. “It enabled many women to finish school. That increased their earning potential. It allowed women to plan and balance their families and careers.”
In the wake of the decision, corporations like Amazon, Yelp, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, EBay and the Walt Disney Company have been stepping up, vowing to help employees in need of abortions with some firms offering as much as $10,000 to cover costs associated with the procedures, including travel. States have become the battle zones as one’s access to abortion now depends on where they live or as California Governor Gavin Newsom as dubbed it: the red states against the blue states. Unfortunately, the practice of gerrymandering voting districts gives the edge to Republicans even in some states where Democrat have the highest numbers.
On the heels of the consequential ruling, Gov. Newsom signed legislation to help protect patients and providers in California against radical attempts by other states to extend their anti-abortion laws into California, joining with Governors Kate Brown of Oregon and Jay Inslee of Washington in a multi-state pact to defend access to reproductive health services and contraceptives.
“We know from history that abortion bans don’t end abortion,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. “They only outlaw safe abortions.”
California law allows a woman to have an abortion until it is determined by a physician that there is a reasonable likelihood of the fetus’ survival outside the uterus without extraordinary medical measures” or if the procedure is necessary in order to protect the life or health of the mother.
“California must do everything it can to protect the fundamental rights of all women – in California and beyond,” said Newsom, in reference to California Senate Bill 1142 creating a fund for private donations to cover abortion care. “We know that states like Missouri are already targeting women seeking abortions in states like California where abortion remains legal.
“We will in no way shape or form, support, enable, investigate, resource, any of those activities or energies,” he continued.
“This legislation seeks to protect women and care providers from civil liability imposed by other states and sends a clear message that California will continue to be a safe haven for all women seeking reproductive health care services in our state.”
An estimated 8,000 to 16,000 may just take Newsom up on the offer, according to a recently released report from UCLA’s Center on Reproductive Health.
“You have the right to an abortion here,” said California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta. “You have the right to an abortion before viability without a reason. You have the right to an abortion after viability to protect your life or your health. You have the right to obtain an abortion without parental consent. I will not back down from defending these rights, expanding them and keeping our clinics accessible and safe, because in California, we refuse to turn back the clock and let radical ideologies exert control over your body.”
In November, California voters will decide whether the state will enshrine the legal right to an abortion and contraception with a constitutional amendment, that would settle the matter for good. If a poll conducted earlier this year by the Public Policy Institute of California is any indication of the outcome, the amendment will surely pass.
Nationally, President Biden is calling on Congress to pass legislation restoring a nationwide right to abortion and also reportedly considering what, if any, executive orders he can take to protect abortion access.
Some democrats have called on Biden to issue orders that could remove restrictions on medication abortion or provide travel vouchers for women seeking an abortion outside their home state.
To be sure, Roe V. Wade will weigh heavily in the political discourse surrounding the mid-term elections.
“Black women are standing together to make clear that we will not go back to a time when politicians controlled our bodies and our most personal health decisions,” a statement from the Black Women’s Leadership Collective read. “Reproductive freedom and the fundamental right to control our bodies are on the ballot in November, along with protecting our right to vote and the health and safety of our communities. We are organizing, mobilizing, and leveraging our collective power in support of candidates who support our rights and will fight for the needs of our communities.”
For activists like Melanie Campbell, the consequences are even more far reaching.
“It is no accident,” she said, “that the states pushing cruel and oppressive anti-abortion legislation are the same states approving laws that brazenly disenfranchise and suppress the vote of the working poor and communities of color. This Supreme Court decision will only enable these states to further destabilize the pillars of our democracy while impeding our basic civil rights.”
A concern that was validated—at least in part— in a concurring opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas, suggesting the Supreme Court reconsider rulings that rely on the same legal reasoning as Roe vs. Wade, including ones that protect gay sex, same-sex marriage and married people’s use of contraception.
And while Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Holly Mitchell declared L.A County “a sanctuary county,” she cautions against any woman—regardless of where they live feeling totally safe.
“We should all be concerned because given the word of Justice Thomas, this is the beginning of rolling back all rights. It’s the beginning of a slippery slope. People should step outside o fhte narrow perspective of abortion rights. It’s about self-determination.
Said comedian/actress Yvette Nicole Brown, “I hope people finally get that voting matters! A corrupt, racist, money and power hungry imp got to put three Supreme Court justices on the bench. Those three said they would protect precedent knowing their goal was to overturn every right they deemed inappropriate. This all happened because not enough people care enough to vote. And not enough people who do vote choose leaders that care about everyone—not just the people who think, love and look like them.”
Michelle Obama viewed the decision as a wake-up call.
“I know this is not the future you chose for your generation,” she wrote in a lengthy post, “but if you give up now, you will inherit a country that does not resemble you or any of the values you believe in.
“This moment is difficult, but our story does not end here. It may not feel like we are able to do much right now, but we can. And we must.
“I encourage you to channel your frustration and anger into action by getting involved,” she continued. “Organizations like Planned Parenthood and the United States of Women, among many others, have resources you can look to if you want to help others or you need to help yourself.”
Some cities in states where bans have been put in place are pushing back. Durham, North Carolina has passed a resolution declaring the city a “sexual and reproductive health care safe zone. Raleigh is considering a similar action that would also block police from collecting data stored on menstrual tracking apps. Members of the Tucson, Arizona City Council voted to order its police department not to arrest people violating state anti-abortion laws. At press, Austin, Texas was voting on a resolution and would deprioritize the investigation or enforcement of any charges related to abortion and South Dakota has announced that they won’t bring criminal charges against women who get abortions.
Those decisions, however, could put those cities at odds with state law and officials. In the final analysis, the real test will come in November.
Emily’s List, an American political action committee founded in 1985 to help elect Democratic female candidates in favor of abortion rights to office, is set to spend $150 million on the midterm elections to make sure voters know who’s standing with them and who is promoting national abortion bans.
“There’s a lot at stake,” said Emily’s List president Laphonza Butler. “What Emily’s list is focused on is making sure that we elect democratic pro-choice women up and down the ballot because in our states it matters, in Washington it matters.
“I am convinced that the American people stand in favor of protecting these rights. They stand in favor of the protections that are enshrined in Roe and I think that they’re going to show up and make their voices heard this November.”


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