The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark legal case that has protected a pregnant women’s right to an abortion for nearly 50 years.
The case that triggered Roe’s demise was Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a challenge to a 2018 Mississippi law banning nearly all abortions after 15 weeks. That law, a violation of Roe, never went into effect because it was blocked by lower courts.
However, in a 6-3 decision on Friday, the Supreme Court reversed those rulings and upheld the Mississippi law, essentially going against decades of precedent set by Roe v. Wade.
The 1973 Roe ruling, which permitted abortions during the first two trimesters of pregnancy and declared individual state laws banning abortion unconstitutional, was reaffirmed by Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992.
Friday’s decision ends those federal protections, meaning its now up to individual states to set their own abortion laws.
Abortion is currently legal in North Carolina, but there are over a dozen other states, like Texas and Tennessee, that have “trigger bans” designed to take effect within 30 days after Roe is overturned. A handful more, especially states where there have been attempts at anti-abortion legislation, could act next.
U.S. Rep. Alma Adams (NC-12), who has been a vocal proponent of women’s reproductive rights, called the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling on Friday “one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in our lifetime” and warned of its widespread consequences for women and parents across the country.
“I’m angry as hell today because this decision is fundamentally wrong,” Adams said. “This decision will affect everyone but the impact will fall hardest on those who already face barriers to care: Black and brown women, those who live in rural areas or have lower incomes and can’t afford to cross state lines for care, the LGBTQ people and women in abusive relationships.”
Adams shared her concerns during a virtual panel discussion alongside U.S. Rep. Deborah Ross (NC-02), who represents Raleigh, and Calla Hales of A Preferred Women’s Health Center, a reproductive clinic in Charlotte, stating “the Supreme Court has now green-lit forced pregnancy.”
But it won’t end there, Adams cautioned. She said she’s worried overturning Roe v. Wade sets a dangerous legal precedent for other personal freedoms to be stripped away.
“The court’s majority has no respect for other precedents that have been won in recent decades: the right to interracial and same-sex marriage, the right of queer people to exist in public, the right to contraception and more,” Adams said.
As executive director of a clinic that provides abortions, Hales is often witness to the national debate over women’s reproductive rights as anti-abortion rights protesters gather daily at her clinic, A Preferred Women’s Health Center in Grier Heights.
Hales said Friday that while the Supreme Court’s decision was expected — referring to the leaked draft opinion in May suggesting the court may overturn Roe v. Wade — “preparation can do nothing to alleviate the pain and suffering this decision is going to cause.”
“Today the U.S. Supreme Court absolutely decimated that right to access abortion care in the United States with a simple swipe of a pen,” Hales said. “The right to decide whether or when to have a child is absolutely essential for social, economic and racial equality, for reproductive autonomy and for determining our own futures.”
Hales reiterated that abortion is still legal in North Carolina. She urged those with appointments not to cancel and those considering care to reach out to a provider as soon as possible, adding that her clinic is not going anywhere “until we damn near have to.”
Though it’s possible Hales’ clinic will see an uptick in out-of-state patients once “trigger bans” and other subsequent abortion laws go into effect in other states, she said it will be difficult for many to even navigate the barriers now in their way.
“This was already health care that was difficult to access between TRAP laws (targeted regulation of abortion providers) and the fact that there are not that many providers anymore,” Hales said. “Traveling out of state, the logistics involved in that, the sheer amount of money and time involved is going to force people to carry unwanted pregnancies to term. Not everyone is going to receive abortion care even if they want it.”
Adams stated that overturning Roe v. Wade and allowing individual states to ban abortions is not going to prevent abortions — just the safe ones.
“It’s really going to create more death with this ruling and we’re going to see things like this,” Adams said, holding up a clothes hanger. “We’re going to see people in back allies. They won’t be going to Calla. It’s just horrible to think about the aftermath of this.”
Despite Friday’s decision, Adams vowed to continue working in Congress for reproductive justice and equality and to “enshrine the bodily autonomy of women and parents in the law.”
“We’re going to have to get out and fight. We have the ballot to use and dammit we better use it,” Adams said.
The Black Abortion Defense League is holding a rally outside of the Government Center in Uptown Charlotte tonight, June 24 at 6 p.m.