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Rights at Risk: Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade will roll back progress for many in Deep South 

Even though a draft opinion was leaked a few weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey is no less disgraceful – one that should deeply alarm Americans who care about our most fundamental rights.

The court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization will allow states to ban abortion outright or enforce harmful restrictions on access to abortion services, eliminating the right to choose for countless people across the country even in cases of rape, incest or to save the life or health of the pregnant person.

In 13 states, mostly in the South and Midwest, legislators have already passed repressive “trigger laws” that ban or significantly restrict abortion accessibility with immediate effect. Many of these state laws criminalize people seeking reproductive care, some targeting medical professionals servicing them or private parties who lend aid. In Arkansas and Oklahoma, for example, a physician will face up to 10 years in prison. In Tennessee, abortions will be prohibited even in cases of rape.

Altogether, about half the states have passed some form of abortion ban in recent years, and they will now have the leeway to put such laws into effect.

This decision is particularly harmful for people living in poverty, who already have limited to no access to quality medical care and lack the resources to travel to another state for necessary medical procedures.  

Mississippi, where the Dobbs case originated, has the highest child poverty rate among all states and one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country. The state also has the worst racial disparities in health care. The failure of Mississippi legislators to expand postpartum Medicaid coverage for new mothers, as they have sought to restrict abortion access, is reprehensible.

As we know, this decision to overturn the rights acknowledged in Roe v. Wade, a precedent that has been in place for almost 50 years, is the culmination of a powerful, concerted movement to ensure that politicians control women’s bodies. It should be noted that some senators who voted to confirm the three justices nominated by former President Trump – Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett – now say they were misled during the confirmation process.

When the draft Dobbs decision was leaked earlier, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowksi said the ruling would be “completely inconsistent with what Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh said in their hearings and in our meetings in my office.”

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin also tweeted that he was “alarmed” that Gorsuch and Kavanaugh decided against Roe v. Wade after testifying under oath that it was settled legal precedent.

How could any senator who voted in favor of these justices have been so naïve? Trump said during his campaign that he would nominate justices who could be certain to overturn Roe.

Endangers fundamental rights broadly

The court’s radical decision in Dobbs will have serious, long-term consequences for individuals and their families. This terrible ruling also endangers other fundamental rights, putting many other communities at risk. The constitutional rights in jeopardy include the right to contraception and equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community.

We welcome Attorney General Merrick Garland’s strong, unequivocal statement today that the First Amendment protects an individual’s right to inform and counsel others on reproductive care available in other states, that the Department of Justice will enforce federal laws against violence directed against clinics, and that federal agencies will continue to provide reproductive health services to the extent authorized by federal law.

There have been significant moments in the Supreme Court’s history when it has issued shameful decisions that deny equal protection under the law to an entire group of people, and this is one of those moments.

The question that should concern all of us now is: How far will this court go to force an extreme-right agenda on the American people?

Just this week, we saw this “pro-life” court strike down a sensible New York state law making it a crime to carry a concealed firearm without a license. How does one reconcile contradictory decisions that uphold state authority to regulate individual body autonomy but not community safety?

We’ve seen what happened after the court, in 2013, struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Since then, numerous states have used racial gerrymandering to dilute the votes of people of color and enacted laws specifically designed to make it harder for communities of color and people living in poverty to vote.

The court’s decision on Dobbs flies in the face of global progress to expand human rights protections for all people. While other countries have embraced the opportunity to expand human rights protections, the U.S. is becoming an outlier with its efforts to deny basic human rights to more than half of the country’s population.

Today, we are outraged about this decision from the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority.

We mourn – and gear up for action.

We refuse to compromise on our rights and freedoms. We will stand with those most directly impacted by this horrific decision – Black, Brown and Indigenous communities; poor people; LGBTQ+ people; immigrants and people living in rural areas – who already face racism, discrimination and other significant barriers to health care.

We must now do the hard, important work of democracy – making our collective voices heard at the polls. We must act collectively to prevent extremists from turning back the clock and reversing the gains we’ve made over the last century.

Anti-abortion and abortion-rights activists use megaphones to get their message across outside of the U.S. Supreme Court as they wait for the court to hand down its decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Tuesday, June 21, 2022, in Washington, D.C. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images)