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Brace Yourselves for Roe Ruling Friday
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An ominous tweet from Senator Whitehouse yesterday read: “The Supreme Court will be releasing opinions on an extra day this week – Thursday AND Friday. Brace yourselves.” When you combine this new information with the fact that the US Senate intends to go on recess for the July 4 holiday after the vote on gun control this morning, the plan seems fairly clear.
The US Supreme Court will likely drop its bomb of a ruling, which effectively overturns Roe v. Wade, on Friday — after a majority of Senators have left town and most Americans will be tuned out due to the long holdiday weekend. Happy Forth of July, everyone.
Health care providers and some law enforcement have already been preparing for this moment and the possible increase in violence once the ruling is made official. Historically, there is a spike in violence when the issue of abortion gets widespread public attention, specifically after a state approves new restrictions. Many conservative states have indeed been working overtime to put certain laws in place that will be “triggered” once the Supreme Court overturns Roe.
The Guttmacher Institute predicts that 26 states are certain or likely to move quickly to ban abortion, which will devastate abortion access across large parts of the country and cause severe health, financial and emotional consequences for people, especially in marginalized communities.
According to their research, 13 of those 26 states already have laws in place that are designed to be “triggered” and take effect automatically or by quick state action if Roe no longer applies: Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.
Some of these 26 states have multiple types of restrictions in place, including nine states with “pre-Roe” bans and 11 states with laws that limit access to abortion based on early gestational age. In states with multiple bans, state officials will determine which law to enforce if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
The early draft opinion that proposed rescinding a woman’s right to choose, was written by Justice Samuel Alito and first leaked in early May. It espouses that there is no constitutional right to abortion and, based on the version that was released, would allow individual states to more heavily regulate or outright ban the procedure.
“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” the draft reads, referencing the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey that affirmed Roe’s finding of a constitutional right to abortion services, but allowed states to place some constraints on the practice. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”
“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” the draft opinion states. It was signed by Justice Samuel Alito, and had the support of the Court’s six conservative Justices. The document was labeled a “1st Draft” of the “Opinion of the Court” in a case challenging Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks, a case known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Conservative states have indeed been busy enacting laws in preparation for this new ruling that would overturn nearly 50 years of established legal precedent. Meanwhile, abortion clinics all over the country have been experiencing the preliminary effects of an impending law and preparing for the consequences of some version of Alito’s draft going into effect at the federal level.
“We know from experience, it’s not like the people protesting clinics in banned states just pack up and go home,” said Melissa Fowler, chief program officer for the National Abortion Federation. This group, along with the hundreds of other abortion clinics it represents, has been on “heightened alert” since the opinion leaked.
According to Fowler, the organization has staff who specializes in security on call around the clock, and they go out to their sister clinics to do drills with employees and volunteers on scenarios such as bomb threats or active shooters. They advise other clinics on security specifics — such as positioning security cameras — and on conducting safety assessments at the homes of physicians, monitoring online threats, and consulting with local law enforcement.
It is hard to imagine that these procedures would not increase significantly in the wake of the Supreme Court actually overturning Roe v. Wade. If abortion clinics have the need to increase safety protocols, then the cost of providing services of any kind will also increase.
In Jacksonville, Florida, the sheriff’s office said last month that they would station an officer outside the clinic, and police in Little Rock, Arkansas, installed a camera atop a crane near an abortion clinic that has been the site of protests, hoping to deter bad actors. Immediately following the leak and for days afterward, police in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, had to initiate extra patrols around the local Women’s Center location.
The tenuous relationship between clinics and local police also factors into the equation, as clinics must often weigh whether having a heavy police presence will frighten patients. How well clinics and police departments work together tends to vary by city and state. According to Amanda Kifferly, who works at a Philadelphia abortion clinic, when she asked a local officer for help as she was assaulted outside of the clinic, the officer responded by telling her that she should “call 911.”
The National Abortion Federation (NAF), which collects data on a monthly basis from its 500-plus members on harassment and violence, reported a spike in incidents in 2020. The number of death threats or threats of harm and of assault and battery both increased by more than double, and providers reported more than 24,000 incidents of hate email or internet harassment.
SHERO published an expose of the ongoing violence and physical threats faced by abortion clinics in January of this year, well before the news of the imminent threat to Roe v. Wade. Investigators for the Deleware clinic bombing in January found links to far-right ideology on the assailant’s social media accounts, specifically a personal Instagram page that contained “strong antiabortion ideology,” even comparing the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Roe v. Wade to the genocidal policies enacted by the Nazis in the Holocaust.
Before throwing the firebomb at a Deleware reproductive health clinic in January, 18-year-old James Samuel Gulick allegedly scrawled the words, “Deus Vult” in red spray paint, just below a clinic sign that reads, “Heath Care Happens Here.” The phrase, which means “God wills it” in Latin, had two crudely drawn religious symbols, a Marian Cross on the left and a Chi-Rho symbol, which was used by the Roman Emporer Constantine, on the right.
Ruth Lytle-Barnaby, Planned Parenthood’s Chief Executive of Delaware, pointed out an alarming aspect of that January attack saying, "Had we not had the security that we have and the building went up in flames, a lot of people could have been injured.” Barnaby continued, “There's student housing that surrounds that building and people think that it's just a Planned Parenthood, but it's not —it's about the whole community."
When the ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is handed down, and if the result mirrors the initial Alito draft that we have already reviewed, we will face a health care crisis in America that will further divide the country into a series of “red and blue states.” Add to that the individual state laws that curtail abortion rights kicking in, and women all over the country suddenly losing access to healthcare with the continued threats suffered by those who work at abortion clinics, and it is a recipe for more violence.
There is every indication that Roe v. Wade will be overturned on Friday and if this happens, America will be in the midst of gearing up to celebrate the Fourth of July a week later. While the Supreme Court may believe that this will help to insulate them from the inevitable fallout of denying women their Civil and Human Rights through access to safe, legal healthcare, the majority of Americans who believe that Roe should remain the law of the land, will see otherwise. For a Court that continues to declare it is a non-political animal, free from personal persuasion and trends, they sure have mastered the insider knack for burying their news in the Friday News Dump.
Amee Vanderpool writes the SHERO Newsletter and is an attorney, published author, contributor to newspapers and magazines, and analyst for BBC radio. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @girlsreallyrule.
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