The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Friday to overturn nearly 50 years of abortion rights protections sparked an outpouring of condemnation in Oregon where reproductive rights are protected by law and Democrats hold the majority of state offices.
Political leaders, from the state’s U.S. senators and representatives to legislators and candidates for office, called the decision “heartbreaking,” “infuriating” and “dangerous” while Republicans praised it.
The decision, written by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, overturns Roe v. Wade and Casey, a subsequent decision affirming abortion rights.
“The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives,” the decision said. That conclusion was anticipated after a draft of the ruling was leaked earlier this year.
Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor wrote the dissent in the case.
“With sorrow — for this court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection — we dissent,” it began.
Abortion at all stages of pregnancy is legally protected in Oregon, and the procedure is free, even for undocumented immigrants. But 13 states have “trigger” laws that will make abortions illegal, including neighboring Idaho, where a ban will go into effect in 30 days.
Abortions rights advocates expect those bans to create a dramatic uptick in demand for abortion in states like Oregon, Washington and California, where reproductive rights are protected.
Oregon is one of the few states without gestational limits on abortions but late-term abortions are almost exclusively performed to protect the patient’s health or because of serious complications.
Nearly 99% of abortions happen before 21 weeks and two-thirds occur up to eight weeks, according to Anne Udall, executive director of Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette.
About two hours after the decision was released, the governors of the three West Coast states announced what they termed a “Multi-State Commitment to Reproductive Freedom” that not only affirmed abortion rights but also pledged to protect from prosecution and extradition patients who travel there for services.
The pact said the states would guard medical records, protect against “adverse actions” by insurers and defend medical practitioners.
“Oregon doesn’t turn away anyone seeking health care. Period,” Governor Kate Brown said in a statement.
“Let me be clear: You cannot ban abortion, you can only ban safe abortions — and this disgraceful Supreme Court decision will undoubtedly put many people’s lives at risk, in addition to stripping away a constitutional right that disproportionately affects women and has been settled law for most of our lifetimes.”
She said Oregon will remain a sanctuary, adding “the fight is not over.”
Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, the state’s top lawyer, vowed after reviewing the opinion to “continue fighting with every bone in my body to keep abortion safe and accessible to all.”
“I will not accept that going forward, young women in Oregon will come of age with fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers,” Rosenblum said. “We are working hard to ensure our state’s laws continue to protect and expand, not diminish, the freedoms we have relied upon for half a century.”
Not everyone shared their views. U.S. Representative Cliff Bentz of Ontario, the state’s only Republican congressional member, called the decision “momentous” in a retweet of a Fox News story.
Congressman Cliff Bentz on Twitter: “A momentous decision. Every human life is sacred. https://t.co/GxLm5q4FHZ / Twitter”
A momentous decision. Every human life is sacred. https://t.co/GxLm5q4FHZ
And state Representative Duane Stark, R-Grants Pass, said in a statement his heart was “filled with joy” following the decision but that he was “saddened” by Oregon’s protections.
“Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, Oregon will continue to have among the most extreme abortion laws in the country and around the world,” said Christine Drazan, Canby’s former state representative and the Republican gubernatorial nominee. “As governor, I will stand up for life by vetoing legislation designed to push Oregon further outside the mainstream.”
Former Canby Planning Commission Vice Chair James Hieb, a Republican who was replaced Drazan in the state Legislature, hailed the ruling as “a step in the right direction to save children,” while acknowledging it will have “zero effect in Oregon.”
“Oregonians will still be able to abort their baby up until the moment of birth,” he wrote on his political Facebook page.
Former Happy Valley Mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer, Republican candidate for Oregon’s 5th Congressional District that includes Clackamas County, hailed the ruling as in line with public opinion while criticizing the leaked draft.
“The overwhelming majority of Americans want some restrictions on abortion and this landmark decision allows states to do just that,” she said in a statement.
(While placing some restrictions on abortion is broadly popular, the high court’s ruling was at odds with public sentiment across the U.S., with decades of polling showing that between 55% and 60% of Americans opposed a complete reversal of Roe.)
Abortions rights advocates said at a news conference after the ruling that they were devastated.
“Abortion is still legal in Oregon,” said An Do, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon. “If you have an appointment — keep it. If you need an appointment, go to abortionsfinder.org to find care.”
Se-ah-dom Edmo, executive director of Seeding Justice, a nonprofit which supports equity and justice rights, announced that the group was awarding $1 million to the Northwest Abortion Access Fund, which helps low-income people obtain an abortion.
“We know the consequences of this decision will be swift and devastating, including for Oregonians whose closest abortion provider was in Idaho and for communities nationwide,” Edmo said in a statement.
“Our first investment will reflect our belief that we must prioritize the needs of those most impacted by barriers to essential abortion care immediately.”
The money comes from $15 million awarded by the Legislature in February to bolster abortion access in Oregon. The rest of the money is expected to be distributed later this year. A steering committee is in charge of awarding grants from the state fund.
The abortion fund, one of several across the country, pays for travel, hotel stays, time off work and care for patients in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska.
“We are here to make sure we can support people who need it but can’t afford it,” said Megan Kovacs, one of the fund’s board members. “Access is not access if you cannot afford it or get to your appointment.”
Others said the Supreme Court decision will hurt people of color, those with low incomes, young people and rural residents the most.
“People with money and power will be able to continue accessing abortion care for themselves and their spouses, children and significant others,” said Sandy Chung, executive director of the ACLU of Oregon. “This decision will most harm communities with the least access to financial and other resources.”
She said that already people have trouble accessing abortions, especially those in rural areas who have to travel miles to access care.
“We know that it is already going to get worse in Oregon,” Chung said.
Dozens of other leaders in the state reacted quickly Friday, with candidates for governor and Democratic candidates for Congress saying that abortion rights will be on the ballot in November.
“This is a heartbreaking day for America,” said Senator Ron Wyden, who called the ruling “horrifying.” “Today’s radical decision to overturn Roe v. Wade tosses out a half-century of legal precedent, curtails the fundamental rights of women, and jeopardizes the health and safety of millions of people across the country.”
“This assault on Americans’ rights and freedom is shocking,” agreed Oregon’s other U.S. senator, Jeff Merkley. “After today, we will see the very real and dangerous consequences across the country of taking away the right to safe and legal abortions.”
U.S. Representative Kurt Schrader, a moderate Democrat who was ousted by a more progressive challenger in last month’s primary race, said “women should have the freedom to make their own health care decisions.”
“History has shown that restrictions lead to the proliferation of unsafe abortions, a tragic choice for every woman who is forced into making such a decision,” he said. “I can’t begin to imagine how women must feel today during these dark and turbulent times.”
“Extremist politics has won the day over our fundamental right to make decisions about our own bodies,” said Jamie McLeod-Skinner, the Terrebonne-based attorney who defeated Schrader for the Democratic nomination in Oregon’s 5th. “History will hang its head on this somber step backward by the U.S. Supreme Court majority.”
Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek described herself as “furious” and “deeply concerned for women around the country” in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision.
“Our right to control our own bodies and futures has been gutted,” she said.
Betsy Johnson, a longtime Democratic state senator who is running an unaffiliated campaign for governor, agreed.
“This is a bedrock issue for me, and frankly, for Oregon,” she said. “A fundamental right. As Oregon’s independent governor, I will always defend and protect a woman’s right to choose.”
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