Roe v. Wade overturned: What they’re saying

Scenes from Friday's rally at the Santa Cruz County courthouse
Scenes from Friday’s rally at the Santa Cruz County courthouse.
(Giovanni Moujaes / Lookout Santa Cruz)

A sampling from columnists, opinion contributors and editorial boards in the wake of the Supreme Court reversing the decision that legalized abortion and allowing states to outlaw the procedure.

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Friday’s move by the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion, brought a flood of reaction around the United States, with rallies from coast to coast, including at the county courthouse in Santa Cruz. Here’s a sampling of opinion from around the country and across the globe.

The hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty of the court’s right-wing justices lead to the conclusion that they have simply appointed themselves super-legislators free to impose a view of the United States as a White, Christian and male-dominated society despite the values, beliefs and choices of a majority of 330 million modern Americans.

To understand how radical the court’s decision is, one need only consider Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurrence, where he says the quiet part out loud: He’d sweep away 14th Amendment substantive due process — birth control, gay marriage, all of it. And that is where we are heading, for in a sense Thomas is right. There is no bright line between destroying the expansive view of liberty in the 14th Amendment, when abortion is at issue, and destroying it for all other intimate decisions. The right-wing majority’s willingness to countenance an all-powerful state that interferes with every aspect of our lives is breathtaking.

The dissent says it plainly: The majority “makes radical change too easy and too fast, based on nothing more than the new views of new judges. The majority has overruled Roe and Casey for one and only one reason: because it has always despised them, and now it has the votes to discard them. The majority thereby substitutes a rule by judges for the rule of law.”

— Opinion columnist Jennifer Rubin, in the Washington Post

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For all women in the United States, the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade will reverse half a century of progress in women’s health care.

For Black women, this decision represents something even more sinister. For us, losing access to legal abortion could spell the difference between life and death.

That may sound like a melodramatic statement, but it’s not. If the past is any guide, ending the right to abortion will spark a public health crisis for Black women defined by more maternal deaths, higher rates of poverty and greater inequality overall.

That cannot be the promise of America.

Linda Goler Blount, president and chief executive of the Black Women’s Health Imperative, in the Los Angeles Times

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It’s wrong to say that the U.S. is going backwards. It’s wrong to say that the U.S. is being transported back to the ‘70s, to a pre-Roe era. No. We are moving forward into something far more sinister. The pre-Roe era didn’t have the widespread surveillance mechanisms that exist today. Regressive laws can now be enforced with the help of modern technology: if you even so much as Google “abortion pill,” there is a chance your online search history could be used against you. If you leave your state to try to get a safe and legal abortion in a state where it is still permitted, your location data could be used against you. For the past decade we have been sleepwalking into a new era of digital authoritarianism. Now we are in the middle of a nightmare.

This nightmare, of course, is not evenly distributed. Friday’s decision will not affect everyone equally: abortion restrictions, it should be stressed, disproportionately harm poor people and women of color. Male Republican politicians, on the other hand, will probably still be able to get their mistresses an abortion when it’s convenient for them.

— Opinion columnist Arwa Mahdawi, in The Guardian

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We are confident that American women will thrive in a world without Roe. Nearly 50 years of abortion-on-demand has incalculably harmed women and their families. And now we have the opportunity to right the wrongs that Roe wrought.

A full and frank national discussion of the myths and facts surrounding abortion is long overdue. Truth was one of the first casualties of Roe. To secure and advance their radical agenda, abortion rights proponents repeatedly and brazenly misled Americans. We must advance a comprehensive, life-affirming agenda, while correcting the falsehoods still being peddled by abortion supporters.

The Supreme Court has given state legislatures permission to protect the unborn and promote a culture of life. But this historic decision won’t end the circumstances that drive women to seek abortion. Some women will still fear that abortion is their only option. These women need financial, material and other resources, as well as the unequivocal life-affirming support of American churches and social agencies.

The pro-life community must seize this opportunity to demonstrate that abortion is a false answer to a real difficulty, that choosing life is the answer and that pro-life policies going forward will set the conditions for women and their babies to truly flourish.

Denise Burke, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, in The Hill

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Progressives made mistakes that made this moment possible. They failed to mobilize voters to care about control of the courts in the ways that conservatives did over the past half-century. The abortion-rights movement often neglected the ideas and needs of people of color, and they often treated Roe as a stand-alone issue — one that could be separated from fights about racism or voting rights or birth control — in ways that set their movement up for failure. And the anti-abortion movement had its share of luck. If Donald Trump had lost in 2016, or if Ruth Bader Ginsburg had retired, this might not be happening now.

Just the same, anyone who underestimated the anti-abortion movement looks like a fool today. The Supreme Court concluded that Roe was egregiously wrong — and compared it to the decision to uphold racial segregation — but it did not stop there. The opinion borrowed language from the anti-abortion movement — the very movement that shaped the court as it exists today. And it overturned Roe despite evidence that most Americans do not want this — and despite the fact that the Supreme Court has rapidly lost standing and now is the most unpopular it has been in the modern polling era.

Mary Ziegler, a law professor at UC Davis and the author of “Dollars for Life: The Anti-Abortion Movement and the Fall of the Republican Establishment,” in the New York Times

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On Thursday, in the middle of an epidemic of mass shootings, with Congress finally getting a mild victory on gun control, Thomas opened the door to more guns on the street. He wrote the majority opinion overturning a New York law limiting the right to carry a handgun in public, throwing out a requirement over a century old.

In another ruling this past week, the justices chipped away at the First Amendment’s separation between church and state, a foundation of the Republic. And next, they will get around to removing environmental protections and gutting the government’s ability to regulate and restrict business rights.

The court is out of control. We feel powerless to do anything about it. Clarence Thomas, of all people, has helped lead us to where we are, with unaccountable extremists dictating how we live. And that is revolting.

— Opinion columnist Maureen Dowd, in the New York Times

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The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade with a 6-3 vote Friday morning, leaving abortion up to individual states. And 26 of them are now certain or likely to ban abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Among those likely to do so is Florida, the research organization, which supports reproductive rights, says.

The court has unleashed a self-righteous minority in these states to force their narrow perspective of morality and physical autonomy onto the rest of the population. Having the right to an abortion doesn’t mean that it is an easy decision, or that the state condones it, but poll after poll shows Floridians want that decision to be made by individuals, not the government. A University of North Florida poll in February found 57% of the state’s registered voters were against the 15-week ban the governor recently signed into law.

The women getting abortions aren’t solely card-carrying liberals. They come from all political leanings, backgrounds and religious views. Some are single, some are married with other children, some don’t want to have children, some do but after much consideration realize they can’t care for one. Some were raped. For them, abortion isn’t a political stance. It shouldn’t be for politicians, either.

The Miami Herald editorial board

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To be a woman in 2022 is to be angry. Perhaps that should say: to be a woman in the 21st century is to be angry.

Why raise me with the ideals of democracy, teach me civics, fill a young head with the stories of our founders and the sacrifices that they made to ensure that our government was constructed to be of, by and for the people, if you’re just going to end up with a Supreme Court that behaves like the sharia courts in Iran?

I am angry at the sham of our Supreme Court, handing down Christian theocracy cloaked in faux constitutional mumbo jumbo. Issuing a decree — yes, a decree, like some Saudi Arabian terrorism court — that makes a mockery of legal precedent and the clear, overwhelming will of the people.

And I am furious that not enough people have poured into the streets to demand the restoration of women’s rights. Women’s rights are, after all, human rights.

We watch our democracy disappear before our very eyes. We must fight for it, or we will lose it. We are losing it.

On a day of infamy that shames our constitution, shames our founders, debases our values and calls the future of a free society into question, angry is all we can be.

Sharon Waxman, editor in chief of The Wrap

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We knew it was coming, and yet. We knew it had been coming for years, and yet. We know that more states will be rolling back abortion access in the weeks and months to come, and yet. We know that the conservative right’s theocratic Christian Nationalist agenda does not stop at Roe — and that Justice Clarence Thomas explicitly invited exploration of the roll-back of the right to access to contraception and the protections of gay relationships and marriage. And yet.

We know that Mike Pence, channeling a belief held by many in his party, has called for a national ban on abortion — a move that would eliminate the momentarily safe havens for access, and is very, very possible if the GOP is swept into power in November. We know that is about abortion, but it is also about political citizenship and power. We know that it is not disconnected from the #MeToo backlash, or the attacks on trans rights in Texas, or the armed men at Pride in Idaho, or Don’t Say Gay, or the anti-Critical Race Theory freakout across the country, or the explicitly racist rantings of mass shooters. We know that we, as a nation, are regressing. And yet. The path and fight forward is so unclear.

So if you’re furious or grieving, ask yourself: what am I willing to do to change it? What am I willing to do to protect the autonomy and safety of our generation, and the next, and the next? How do I push against the natural inertia to pull my own circle tight and protect them and them alone from the world outside? As AOC put it in her Instagram stories yesterday, “ultimately, we live in this world and in this time. We have no choice but to engage in it while we’re here. Even running away is a form of engagement. So will your engagement hurt or heal?”

Your engagement can be as big or as small as you need it to be in this initial moment, and it can continue to grow in the months to come. And I don’t care if you’re a man, or a teen, or grandparent, or a tough old broad. If you’re furious about the revocation of women’s political citizenship and bodily autonomy, are you ready to act? And if you’re making excuses, if you’re satisfied with a social media post or a yard sign, if you think you’ll be fine in your blue state, ask yourself: what story will I tell myself, ten years from now, when the revocation of rights comes for me, too? Will I have felt I did enough? And what story will I tell my children, or my friend’s children, or my siblings’ children, about what I did to protect not just them, but everyone else?

Anne Helen Petersen, in Culture Study

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