One of my favorite parts of living in Washington, DC was being in the center of it all when any major policy decision or landmark event happened. There was this instinctual reaction to pack a backpack and gather with others, no matter whether the outcome was what you loved or dreaded. Affordable Health Care act passed, and we ran to Lafayette Square right outside the White House. We clamored for tickets to President Obama’s inauguration. When dignitaries passed away, we paid our respects in the Capitol Rotunda.
When big moments happen, I think about what I would do if I still lived there. This week was no exception, with the unprecedented leak of the Supreme Court’s draft decision to overturn Roe v. Wade with their ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. There is no gathering space to gather in Seattle, at least none that I know of. So, I took to Twitter.
I said what I said, but as with anything on social media, there’s more nuance to it. There’s always more to the story.
When we look at our reactions to big pieces of news as they’re announced, it comes from a gut reaction. No doubt we’ve seen that from both sides. My reaction comes from a place of always fighting for people to feel safe, seen, and agency to make their own choices. It’s not mine to judge what those choices are. Legal scholars, policymakers, and activists have been watching the writing on the wall for decades. It’s unsettling to see something that was a protected ruling for almost five decades be overturned. It’s even more unsettling to see the ripple effect of who this will harshly impact most.
Let’s drop the water in the ocean and watch the tide expand, shall we? We can start with abortion for any number of reasons. There’s no corner market on reasons to stop a pregnancy, and it’s not what many typically assume. There are medical conditions (like a pregnancy that was no longer viable – something I experienced as our child was eight weeks old in 2016). There are economic choices – women from all economic backgrounds have abortions and yet we know that those who are below the poverty line. Let’s face it – healthcare is expensive even in the best circumstances, and this includes contraceptives. There are hundreds of other reasons, but at the end of the day, none of them matter. It all comes down to a choice of how to best take care of her body, no matter the circumstances.
Overruling Roe v. Wade means that the 13 states with trigger laws in place, many of which would ban abortion altogether. This means that a woman in one of those states would likely have to travel to multiple states to get the healthcare she needs. Of those women, only the more wealthy women – likely white women – would be able to do that. And let’s not forget the states that are independently pushing forward bills that focus on abortion as homicide.
The next ripple out is, naturally, contraceptives. Even since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved birth control for sale in 1960, there have been numerous hurdles in place, including prescription restrictions and the simple cost of a monthly expense. Remember, the original decision on Roe was based on Griswold v. Connecticut, which struck down a law banning birth control. Legal scholars consider this the next move after Roe falls.
In Justice Alito’s opinion, the Constitutional purist makes the case that “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.” To state the obvious, the Constitution was written by a bunch of white men. I do appreciate all that our Founding Fathers did to set up our government and society, and yet I’d argue that, like most humans, they possibly weren’t thinking of the needs of others beyond themselves. We specifically see how they weren’t accurately accounting for women and people of color. If we’re basing our view of civil liberties and rights based on the strict wording in the Constitution, then we’re not truly protecting the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of all Americans. Specifically, Alito states that this decision will not spill over to non-abortion-related precedents while peppering in references to Lawrence v. Texas (the right to same-sex relationships) and Obergefell v. Hodges (marriage equality). Even with this language, LGBTQ+ legal experts aren’t so sure, especially with the court going after a ruling of such a long-standing precedent.
The ripples could keep going. No matter how much nuance we can add to the picture, there’s one thing I can reliably expect will happen. I’ll be told I’m being hysterical, overreacting. Too emotional. I’m fully expecting it, and it doesn’t phase me. If I were in DC right now, I’d join the conversations happening outside of the Supreme Court.
At the end of the day, the things I wish for all Americans are to be safe, seen, and still have a choice. To live in a world where the government has a particular say in my body and over women’s choices doesn’t just end there – it can overflow to change the civil rights of a majority of Americans and their ability to be safe, seen, and have a choice in how they live their lives.