‘This is a basic human issue’: Abortion-rights supporters decry Roe draft

  • Standing outside the Franklin County Justice Center in Greenfield on Tuesday, community members joined others around the country in protest after it was revealed that the Supreme Court is on the verge of striking down its 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, the case that recognized a constitutional right to abortion. STAFF PHOTO/MARY BYRNE

  • Community members took part in a rally on the Greenfield Common, organized by Conway resident Mary McClintock, on Tuesday in protest after it was revealed that the Supreme Court is on the verge of striking down its 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, the case that recognized a constitutional right to abortion. STAFF PHOTO/MARY BYRNE

  • Community members took part in a rally on the Greenfield Common, organized by Conway resident Mary McClintock, on Tuesday in protest after it was revealed that the Supreme Court is on the verge of striking down its 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, the case that recognized a constitutional right to abortion. STAFF PHOTO/MARY BYRNE

  • People protest for women’s reproductive rights in front of the Franklin County Justice Center in Greenfield on Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • People protest for women’s reproductive rights in front of the Franklin County Justice Center in Greenfield on Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • People protest for women’s reproductive rights in front of the Franklin County Justice Center in Greenfield on Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Published: 5/5/2022 11:56:25 AM
Modified: 5/5/2022 11:54:54 AM

Local activists and elected leaders expressed heartbreak and outrage after it was revealed that the Supreme Court is on the verge of striking down its 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, the case that recognized a constitutional right to abortion.

Anti-abortion advocates and proponents of states’ rights, meanwhile, saw a reason to celebrate.

The news outlet Politico published a draft of the court’s opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which centers on a Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, authored by Justice Samuel Alito.

Politico reported that the opinion appears to have the necessary votes to become the court’s formal ruling, although changes to the draft and vote-switching among justices are still possible.

The opinion, confirmed as genuine but not final by Chief Justice John Roberts, also would strike down Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, which found it was unconstitutional for states to ban abortion before “fetal viability” but allowed for restrictions that did not place an “undue burden” on a person seeking the procedure.

“Our nation’s historical understanding of ordered liberty does not prevent the people’s elected representatives from deciding how abortion should be regulated,” reads a portion of Alito’s 98-page draft opinion. “The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each state from regulating or prohibiting abortion.”

The court typically releases most of its decisions in June.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion will not be outlawed in Massachusetts.

In December 2020, lawmakers overrode Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto of the ROE Act and established an affirmative right to abortion in state law. The law eliminates the need for parental consent for 16- and 17-year-olds to get an abortion, and allows abortions after 24 weeks in the case of lethal fetal abnormalities and when the fetus is not viable.

Talk of a national ban

“It’s a dark day for America,” said Carrie Baker, a Smith College professor and scholar of reproductive rights. “This has been a right established by the Supreme Court and in the Constitution for close to half a century.”

“This is a basic human issue,” added Judy Atkins of Greenfield-based grassroots progressive organization Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution (FCCPR). “The state has no right to tell individual women what they can do with their lives.”

Baker said she sees abortion as a “bellwether” issue for democracy and that Alito’s opinion would threaten the right to privacy currently enshrined in constitutional law by judicial precedent. That position was shared by President Joe Biden, who called the right to privacy “fundamental” in a Tuesday afternoon tweet.

The opinion threatens other rights undergirded by the right to privacy, Baker said, such as the right to use contraception and engage in consensual sexual activity. Pro-life activists have argued for decades that there is no constitutional right to privacy that applies to abortion.

“Republicans are going to try to push very hard to pass a national law banning abortion,” she said. “That’s the endgame.”

Similarly, Atkins said, “it’s a terrible outcome of years of chipping away at reproductive rights.”

Such a ban, Baker said, would not have exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother.

For the political left, Carrie Baker — who is not related to the governor — said overturning Roe v. Wade would be a mobilizing moment for the November elections. She said the Senate needs to end the filibuster to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify Roe v. Wade into federal law and has already passed the U.S. House.

She also said that Massachusetts should pass a law that protects those who provide abortion care to women who travel here from states that ban abortion.

There is an underground movement that Baker said is providing medical abortion pills to people in all 50 states. She cited the work of Plan C, a group that advocates for and helps people obtain the pills.

‘Praying’ the opinion is real

Mary Cay Andrikidis, a Florence resident and anti-abortion activist, said Tuesday that she was “weeping” with joy and “praying” that the justices overturn Roe v. Wade.

“This is the most blessed thing for our unborn babies. It’s been years that we’ve been living with this. It is the murder of babies,” Andrikidis said. “It’s such a sad, sad circumstance and I pray for any woman who would ever have to contemplate such a thing.”

Now in her 70s, Andrikidis said she has attended the March For Life, an annual pro-life rally in Washington D.C., on three occasions. She said she prays that the justices remain unharmed and they are able to issue their formal ruling in due time.

“I was a very young mother in 1973, and now I’m an older grandmother, but I’ve always thought life was sacred. When my mother and my aunts were having babies, to me, it was the most marvelous thing in the world,” she said, decrying abortion procedures as “heinous.”

Andrikidis said there are free resources for women who become pregnant and can’t care for children, and clinics like the Bethlehem House in Easthampton provide information and access to such services. Bethlehem House describes itself online as a nonprofit, faith-based pregnancy crisis center that believes “all human life is sacred from conception to natural death.”

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield declined a request for comment. The website of the diocese’s Respect Life Office urges “Catholics to advance pro-life positions within their family, church and community, as well as within their professional organizations.”

On the other hand, the Rev. Dr. Candice Ashenden, a pastor at the United Congregational Church of Conway and family and outreach pastor with the Athol Congregational Church, feels “anything that threatens individual pursuit of happiness greatly concerns me because my faith teaches me that we are all valued children of God just the way we are.”

“We already, in the Orange and Athol area, see a lot of poverty and a lot of struggle for those who are doing their best in difficult circumstances,” she said. “I would be concerned if those who don’t feel they can take on raising a child are forced to have one and make decisions about whether to keep the child or put them up for adoption.”

“It shouldn’t be anyone else’s choice when it is time for someone to have a child,” Ashenden added.

Elected leaders promise a fight

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, who represents much of the Pioneer Valley in Congress, did not mince words in his reaction to the leaked draft opinion.

“I’m disgusted that that would be the opinion of a majority of people on the Supreme Court,” he said. “I always viewed it as settled law.”

McGovern also expressed concern about what this would mean for other past decisions of the court.

“Do they want to overturn Brown vs. Board of Education?” McGovern said. “How far do they want to turn back the clock? … Republicans want to make government small enough to fit into your doctor’s office and your bedroom.”

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., tweeted that the Senate should end the filibuster, “codify Roe v. Wade with a national law protecting abortion rights” and expand the number of justices on the court to “stop this horrifying injustice in its tracks.”

State Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Sunderland, said Tuesday that the prospect of Roe v. Wade being overturned is “certainly something that’s been on my mind today.”

“I think it’s important to note that abortion is health care, and remains safe and legal in Massachusetts,” she said. “When we were considering the ROE Act, I heard from constituents on both sides and took all of those viewpoints into consideration before casting those two votes.”


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