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Roe v. Wade overturned; so what’s next?

The Millerton News Editorial

When the Supreme Court overturned the 50-year-old landmark decision Roe v. Wade on Friday, June 24, which had up until then protected a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion, it reversed vital precedent. 

In doing so, the bombshell decision was only the third time the highest court in the land set a precedent that took away an individual’s right rather than expanded it — and that’s downright dangerous. 

For if the court begins to establish that pattern, it could set the course for placing other constitutional rights most Americans take for granted at risk. 

This tragic ruling could further crack the door and let courts potentially overturn rulings on same-sex marriage, contraception and other rights U.S. citizens hold near and dear in the immediate future. The justices have reportedly already been debating that point.

With conservative Justice Samuel Alito writing the majority opinion on Friday’s abortion case, a woman’s constitutional right to get an abortion is now no longer federally-protected. In the syllabus of the 6-3 written decision, Roe was described as “egregiously wrong and on a collision course with the Constitution from the day it was decided.”

Roe v. Wade, decided in 1973, and its successor, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, decided in 1992, were both overturned last week. 

Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett all voted to nullify Roe — all three nominated by former President Donald Trump. Those appointments were made after a Republican House and Senate refused to allow former President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee for associate justice, Merrick Garland, to go through the Congressional review process in 2016. If appointed, Garland would have succeeded the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Those who dissented on Friday included the small liberal minority: Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. In their dissenting opinion they wrote, “After today, young women will come of age with fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers had.”

Wow. Think about that for a moment. This country is actually moving backwards. What if that were the case with how the U.S. progressed in terms of science, technology or any other modern-day innovations? Would our leaders — our mostly male leaders — support such laws then?  

So who, exactly, are the justices who just denied so many millions of American woman, trans and/or non-binary individuals such a basic freedom? Who are the politicians, the religious leaders and the many other abortion opponents who have battled for five decades — and now succeeded — to make it so that an essential medical procedure cannot be accessed by patients who require it? 

Are they medically trained, psychologically equipped and/or qualified to evaluate and then forbid anyone from making a decision regarding their own body? 

Would you like a stranger to prevent you or a loved one from accessing essential medical care — or be ordered to carry a child to full term — even if you were a victim of incest, rape, if you have serious health issues or if you don’t have the mental, emotional or financial ability to deal with a pregnancy? What if that pregnancy was life-threatening?

It’s doubtful. Even if you were to agree to such terms, there’s no reason why others should have to do so — not in the year 2022, and certainly not in America. The U.S. has always been a beacon of democracy and personal freedoms, as it purportedly was the one country people could count on that guaranteed its citizens more human rights than any other around the world. Those rights should continue to grow into the future, not decline.

Interestingly, according to an excellent May 4 article in The New Yorker written by Jill Lepore entitled, “Of Course the Constitution Has Nothing to Say About Abortion,” it states there is “little written about abortion in a 4,000-word document crafted by 55 men in 1787… 

“There is nothing in that document about women at all,” wrote Lepore. “Most consequentially, there is nothing in that document — or in the circumstances under which it was written — that suggests its authors imagined women as part of the political community embraced by the phrase ‘We the People.’”

Perhaps that isn’t terribly surprising. What’s sadly less surprising is that not much seems to have changed in the last 235 years.

Immediately after the court handed down its ruling, tens of millions of women lost access to safe and legal abortions, putting their health at risk. While the ruling itself didn’t initiate a ban, it gave states almost limitless power to do so.

As of Friday, legislators in 13 states had already passed what are known as “trigger laws,” meaning abortions were prohibited almost immediately with Roe no longer legal. In some states, those laws will require an official, like an attorney general (AG), to certify Roe has been nullified to take effect.

New York is one state determined to protect a woman’s right to reproductive health care. Following the Supreme Court’s devastating decision, New York AG Letitia James reminded residents of their rights under the Reproductive Health Act of 2019. 

“The people of New York — and all those who may come here seeking care — have my word that New York state has been and will continue to be a safe haven for abortion access,” said James. “I will never stop fighting to protect the freedom to make our own decisions about our lives and futures.”

According to the AG’s office, New York provides public funding for abortion. It also requires state-regulated private insurers to cover “medically necessary” abortion care. And beginning Jan. 1, 2023, every private insurance plan offering maternity care coverage must cover abortion.

“Today’s ruling is a vicious, dangerous and deliberate attack on our most basic freedom as humans,” James said. “But make no mistake: We will not go back to the inhumane and restrictive pre-Roe era. Regardless of the situation at the national level, New York will always be a safe haven for anyone seeking an abortion.”

Thank goodness for that, because when learning of this ruling — handed down from the U.S. Supreme Court — all this editor could think was, “Never in my lifetime did I believe I would see the day when Roe v. Wade was overturned.”

Sadly, that day has now come and gone. 

The question one dreads to ask: Which basic right will we lose next?

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