by Elizabeth Turnbull and Sarah Goh
Content Warning: This article discusses the topic of sexual violence and assault.
Washington leaders joined a growing national protest Tuesday, May 3, after news site Politico obtained and published a Supreme Court draft opinion showing the court has voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, a landmark 1973 decision ensuring a woman’s right to an abortion.
Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Jay Inslee gathered political leaders, including U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, and King County Executive Dow Constantine, at Kerry Park to rally and denounce the decision reflected in the draft opinion.
The strongly worded draft opinion rejecting abortion rights has sparked an intense array of emotions, from fear to dismay at the court’s decision to end a longstanding constitutional right.
“I cannot believe we are going backwards and I’m terrified it’s just the start,” said Susie Rice, who attended Tuesday’s protest.
Some at the rally had lived through the era before Roe v. Wade when abortions were illegal and unsafe. Beth Roos says she remembers helping women in need of abortions travel in secret from Ohio to New York. She spoke about the many dangers women put themselves through to receive illegal abortions.
“Women will die again, the way they did before Roe,” Roos said. “Especially low-income women and Women of Color who can’t get access the way wealthy white women can.”
Her rally partner Barbara Steele said, “I grew up and lived in a neighborhood where a doctor did illegal abortions in back alleys. I don’t want to see us go back to that.”
While an official court decision is not expected for a few months, the draft opinion would provide an overwhelming and seismic victory for anti-abortion advocates around the country and in political office. Meanwhile, individuals who rely on abortions, currently or in the future, are in an anxiety-inducing position as 23 states would likely ban the procedure, in some form.
Washington is one of four states, including California, New York, and Oregon, which have put abortion rights into state law, but with residents of many other states without these protections, many will be forced to travel to obtain an abortion — a way of circumventing abortion laws that some experts are hoping stays protected as some states are attempting to make traveling to other states for an abortion illegal.
Washington’s political leaders ensured that the state will remain a pro-choice state even with Roe v. Wade overturned.
“Washington State was a pro-choice state, Washington State is a pro-choice state, and we are going to fight like hell to keep Washington a pro-choice state,” Gov. Jay Inslee said.
Inslee says that Washington will provide “sanctuary” for any American who exercises the right of choice. He plans for Washington to have enough health resources for future arrivals and is exploring constitutional protections for people in danger of legal action from other states.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson took to the stand to expand on Washington law. In 1991, the people of Washington State passed the Reproductive Privacy Act that protected the right to choose. Ferguson says this state law is stronger than federal protections.
“I know that many of you are scared about the implications of this opinion,” Ferguson said. “But I want to reassure you that Washingtonions’ fundamental right to access safe and legal abortion is not in jeopardy.”
Though many leaders affirmed the protection of Washington residents, others took to the stand to speak about the dangers of overturning Roe v. Wade.
“If this opinion comes to pass, it will be the most horrific and unprecedented rollback of women’s rights in our history,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, said. “The leaked draft opinion is a radical, outrageous, and dangerous opinion.”
Jayapal says the decision is a pipeline to attacking other human rights, from contraceptives to gay marriage, and marginalized communities will be the most impacted.
“They will be the ones who will pay the steepest price,” Jayapal said. “Because abortion won’t go away, but safe and legal abortion will, endangering millions.”
Aside from the legal aspect, getting an abortion also has financial barriers for many individuals, and groups like the Northwest Abortion Access Fund work across four states, including Washington, to make them affordable.
After seeing the news of the draft opinion, Riley Keane, an organizer with the fund, told the Emerald that the recent development was not unexpected.
“We are dismayed but not surprised,” Keane said. “We have been anticipating this decision for some time, and the landscape for many people is already ‘post-Roe’ in the sense that abortion care is out of reach for them logistically and financially.”
Keane referenced that 33 states currently follow the Hyde Amendment standards, which do not cover abortions under Medicaid, with the exception of some extreme circumstances. Keane also referenced that a large percentage of Americans struggle to afford emergency health care in general.
Regardless, Keane emphasized that the group remains in support of women and people in need of abortions at a difficult time.
“We’re here for you,” Keane said. “And we will do everything we can to help you.”
Missouri Democrat Rep. Cori Bush, who had an abortion at the age of 18 after being raped, has previously advocated for access to abortion care for Black women, and for protections for women who have experienced assault.
Others have also emphasized the importance of abortion access in the LGBTQ+ community, such as local advocate J Mase III, a Black/trans/queer poet and educator.
For Mase, the recent Roe v. Wade development has reminded him of past stories of strength in the face of racist and governmental attacks. Specifically, Mase referenced Frances Thompson, a formerly enslaved Black trans woman who testified before Congress in the late 1800s after being attacked by a white mob and raped.
“We have had to fight before and after Roe v. Wade for access to abortions, consensual reproductive care, and bodily autonomy in many places across the U.S.,” Mase said. “This will not stop us from making reproductive justice a reality for all bodies.”
Aside from individuals at the grassroots level, leaders at the local and national levels have also responded to the draft opinion — which will likely be followed by an official ruling in two months.
Biden has responded by saying that Roe v. Wade should not be overturned and that local leaders should be prepared to do what they can to protect abortion rights on a smaller scale.
Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland, D-Lakewood, issued a statement Monday night saying, “This dangerous step will harm women and families in the South Sound and across this country … Reproductive choice is a fundamental right. I will never stop fighting in Congress to ensure that safe and legal abortion and family planning care are available to all.”
Individuals at the County level, including Councilmember Girmay Zahilay, have spoken against the draft opinion as well, claiming, “Any Supreme Court opinion on abortion should be 2 sentences: ‘There’s no right in the world more fundamental than the right to control your own body. That’s it, that’s the opinion.’”
Elizabeth Turnbull is a journalist with reporting experience in the U.S. and the Middle East. She has a passion for covering human-centric issues and doing so consistently.
Sarah Goh is a Singaporean American journalist who is also a medical student at WSU College of Medicine. At the intersection of community, science, and humanities, she hopes to elevate marginalized voices and explore the overlooked and unexpected through her writing. Find her at sarahsgoh.com or on Twitter @sarahsgoh.
📸 Featured Image: People joined Washington leaders Tuesday, May 3, 2022, to protest a draft opinion published Monday night showing the Supreme Court has voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, a ruling ensuring a woman’s right to an abortion. (Photo: Alex Garland)
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