Locals, legislators react to Supreme Court ruling


Staff Writer
Published: 6/24/2022 6:17:07 PM
Modified: 6/24/2022 6:16:48 PM

Franklin County residents expressed strong feelings on Friday following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the case that recognized a constitutional right to abortion, while legislators sought to emphasize that abortion will still be legal in Massachusetts.

While many states are on track to eliminate abortion access, Massachusetts is not following that trajectory. Gov. Charlie Baker signed an executive order on Friday enshrining protection to reproductive health care service access.

The order also prohibits any executive department agencies from assisting another state’s investigation into a person or entity for receiving or delivering reproductive health services in Massachusetts, said state Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, D-Northampton. The order states that Massachusetts agencies will not cooperate with extradition requests from other states pursuing criminal charges against individuals who received, assisted with or performed reproductive health services that are legal in Massachusetts.

“I’m very grateful that today, Gov. Baker signed an executive order to protect access to reproductive health care services in the commonwealth,” state Rep. Susannah Whipps, I-Athol, said in a statement.

Rebecca Bialecki, vice chair of the Athol Selectboard, said that while her personal opinion has nothing to do with the town, she feels “like we just got set back 150 years.”

“Since I came home ... I’ve had the TV on in the background and all I’m seeing is the response to this decision. People are outraged,” Bialecki said. “The decision was made with no consideration of how the American people feel, because I’ve read all the polls about how more than 75% of the American people agree with a woman’s right to choose. And yet, our Supreme Court completely overlooked that.”

“We have Massachusetts laws in place anticipating this decision that will protect a woman’s right to choose what will happen to her body,” said state Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru.

Likewise, state Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, reminded constituents in a social media post that abortion is still legal in Massachusetts.

“Even though we expected this,” Comerford added, “today’s news is a gut punch nonetheless.”

U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, called the decision “a distressing and shameful step backwards,” and said Democrats will continue fighting to protect women’s rights.

“Today’s ruling is the dangerous culmination of Republicans’ decades-long effort to roll back women’s freedoms and control their health care decisions,” Neal said in a statement.

Similarly, U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern said he was disgusted by the court’s decision.

“If it’s not clear, the court is coming for more fundamental rights,” McGovern wrote in a tweet. “Americans must express outrage and vote like their rights depend on it — because they do.”

On the other hand, Bishop William Byrne, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, issued a statement affirming the Supreme Court’s decision “upholding each state’s right to defend life.”

“Here in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, we still have much work to do so that all citizens recognize the sanctity of all human life,” Byrne said. “We continue to work, advocate and pray that our brothers and sisters will recognize the right to life of the most vulnerable among us. This includes not just the unborn who are so precious to us, but all people who are vulnerable. We will continue to work to affirm this right, the right given by God alone that all life is sacred and intended.”

Byrne also said he hopes that those who are upset with the Supreme Court’s decision will “raise their voices in a peaceful manner.”

‘We need to be prepared’

Many are concerned that people from states with restricted abortion access will come to Massachusetts seeking the procedure.

“We will see people coming to western Massachusetts to do services that they will not be able to get in other states,” Mark said. “We need to be prepared for this.”

Yanina Vargas, executive co-director of the Greenfield-based New England Learning Center for Women In Transition (NELCWIT), called the Supreme Court’s decision “devastating.”

“This is another way women are put at risk,” she said. “It is devastating to see how our bodies and safety are put at risk.”

While Vargas added that Massachusetts will remain a safe place in regards to abortion access, she expressed concern that “federal funding might be cut or come with severe restrictions now.”

Likewise, Sheryl Zoll, CEO of the reproductive health clinic Tapestry, said her organization will continue to preserve access to abortion in Massachusetts.

“A ban on abortion disproportionately affects people who cant travel to get abortion,” Zoll noted. “That is people who are living in poverty and struggling under systemic racism.”

Residents share reactions

Many residents gathered on the Greenfield Common Friday when the decision was first announced, and again at 5 p.m., voicing their anger.

“I am outraged. We are not going to abandon our younger sisters and granddaughters,” commented Gill resident Eve Brown-Waite. “We will organize for women’s health to be accessible.”

Not on the Greenfield Common, David Lewis, chair of Greenfield Republican Town Committee, said, “It will be better off if people marched in the streets for world peace or helping the hungry, instead of if it’s OK to kill people.”

Lewis also disagreed with the governor signing an executive order protecting abortion access.

“I am against them doing any kind of executive order if the Supreme Court said it is unconstitutional,” he said. “I am fed up with people saying something is constitutional when it’s not.”

South Deerfield resident Noel Gomez agreed with the Supreme Court’s decision.

“These are god’s children,” Gomez said. “I am glad that it got shot down because if people had a chance to tour abortion clinics, I am quite sure they would change their minds,” referring to people who are pro-abortion.

“It is bad it was overturned,” commented Greenfield resident Amanda Cleary. “I am sick of older white men controlling people’s issues.”

While many residents stressed their strong feelings, many also expressed their confusion.

“What does this really mean when they hand the decision back to the states?” commented Amy Coates of Shelburne Falls. “I would like to have a clear understanding of what this means now.”

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