Members of the Supreme Court gather for their official portrait in 2021. (Fred Schilling/Supremecourt.gov)
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.
Abortion rights are protected by law in Oregon, and the procedure is free, even to undocumented immigrants. But 13 states have “trigger” laws anticipated the court’s decision that will make abortions illegal, either immediately or within a certain time frame. Idaho’s 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.
About two hours after the decision was released, the governors of the three states issued a “Multi-State Commitment to Reproductive Freedom” that not only affirmed abortion rights but also pledged to protect from prosecution and extradition those patients who seek care in one of the three states. 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,” Gov. 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.”
Not everyone shared her views. U.S. Rep. Cliff Bentz of Ontario, the state’s only Republican congressional member, called the decision “momentous” in a retweet of a Fox News story. And state Rep. 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.
Abortions rights advocates said they 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 who’s 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.”
Other participants in the news conference – Christel Allen, executive director of Pro-Choice Oregon, and Sandy Chung, executive director of American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon – 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,” Chung said. “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.
Democratic lawmakers, candidates oppose decision
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon:
“This is a heartbreaking day for America. 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.”
U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon:
“When you have to make the most intimate, personal decisions that will impact your life and your health and body, I don’t know anyone who wants some politician in the room. Yet, that is exactly the impact of this Supreme Court opinion for millions and millions of Americans, who suddenly find an overbearing government dictating their path. This assault on Americans’ rights and freedom is shocking. 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. Rep. Peter Defazio, D-Oregon:
“Today is a devastating day. The decision by the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn the constitutional right to abortion is disappointing but unfortunately, not surprising. The Court’s ruling stripped women of their right to choose and dramatically changed our Nation in an instant. It reverses 50 years of precedent and marks the first time in U.S. history that the Supreme Court has reversed a previously confirmed basic constitutional right and directly threatens other constitutional freedoms such as the right to marry, family planning, individual privacy, and more.”
U.S. House Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Oregon:
“The decision today undermines decades of hard-fought protections for reproductive health and the right to determine when and whether to have a child. Make no mistake, overturning Roe v. Wade will not end abortions; it will make them unsafe. This decision will disproportionately hurt families and individuals who are already struggling, and, unfortunately, it will embolden many states to restrict access to the care people need.”
U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Oregon:
“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. I can’t begin to imagine how women must feel today during these dark and turbulent times. I firmly believe that women should have the freedom to make their own health care decisions and will continue to fight to ensure that reproductive care, including abortion, remains accessible regardless of ZIP code.”
U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon:
House Majority Leader Rep. Julie Fahey, D-Eugene:
“I know this moment is not easy, but Oregon Democrats are committed to taking action, expanding abortion access, and protecting our fundamental rights. Many generations have fought tirelessly to gain and protect the rights we have today. We owe it to them to continue to fight for a world where all of us have the freedom and the power to control our own bodies and our own lives.”
Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego:
“I am outraged at this extreme, ideological decision. Abortion and reproductive services are health care. Pro-Choice states like Oregon are now the last line of defense to protect abortion and reproductive health care rights. It’s more important than ever to elect leaders that will protect abortion and reproductive health care. Our Democratic majority is the dividing line.”
House Speaker Rep. Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis:
“This will go down as an incredibly dark day in American history. Let’s be clear about the stakes: The extreme Dobbs decision will make women and individuals across the country less safe. It will harm millions of people, most specifically people of color and low-income individuals, and worsen existing inequality. This decision takes away the ability of Americans to control their own bodies and lives, and turns that power over to politicians.”
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tina Kotek:
“Our right to control our own bodies and futures has been gutted. I’m furious. I’m deeply concerned for women around the country. Here is what I want Oregonians to know right now: Abortion access is protected here in Oregon, I made sure of that. As House Speaker, I worked to pass the nation’s strongest reproductive health law, ensuring that abortion access would be protected here, no matter what the Supreme Court decides. As your Governor, and the only candidate with the support of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, Pro-Choice Oregon and The Mother PAC, I will stand up to fight for reproductive freedom.”
Jamie McLeod-Skinner, Democratic candidate for Oregon’s 5th Congressional District:
“Extremist politics has won the day over our fundamental right to make decisions about our own bodies. History will hang its head on this somber step backwards by the U.S. Supreme Court majority.”
Andrea Salinas, Democratic candidate for Oregon’s 6th Congressional District:
“As we know, this decision will not result in fewer abortions. It just means that access to a safe, legal abortion will disappear in far too many places. To people across the country, fearful of what’s next, let me say this: Oregon remains a state where you can receive safe, legal, and comprehensive abortion and reproductive care.”
Unaffiliated gubernatorial candidate Betsy Johnson:
“This is a bedrock issue for me, and frankly, for Oregon. A fundamental right. As Oregon’s independent governor, I will always defend and protect a woman’s right to choose.”
Republican lawmakers, candidates support the decision
U.S. Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Oregon:
State Rep. Duane Stark, R-Grants Pass:
“My heart is filled with joy this morning over the news that the United States Supreme Court has overturned Roe v Wade. While I am thrilled about today’s news and what it means for our country, I am still saddened about abortion in our state. Oregon is one of the most pro-abortion states in the country. We are an abortion-on-demand state. Not only do our laws allow abortion at any time, it’s even paid for by your taxpayer dollars.”
Senate Republican Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend:
“Nearly 50 years ago, the Supreme Court imposed a one size fits all policy on the country that has done nothing but divide the American people. Today, the Court returned the abortion debate to the states and the democratic process. We are stronger as a country when reasonable people from all walks of life can discuss this issue, cast a vote, and do the hard work of persuading others. Senate Republicans will fight for policies that provide financial relief for women and healthy families, including during their pregnancies. Oregonians can and should come together with compassion to promote a culture of life, protect innocent unborn life, and find agreement on abortion policy that the vast majority of Oregonians support.”
Republican gubernatorial candidate Christine Drazan:
“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. As governor, I will stand up for life by vetoing legislation designed to push Oregon further outside the mainstream.”
Lori Chavez-DeRemer, Republican candidate for Oregon’s 5th Congressional District:
State officials also react
Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum:
Secretary of State Shemia Fagan:
“The right to control your own body and future is fundamental to our freedom in America. With today’s decision to end our national constitutional right to an abortion, 6 people on the Supreme Court have put the lives of millions in danger and made our country less free. Let’s be clear: In Oregon, abortion is legal. It is still your right. You can travel to Oregon to get an abortion if you need to.”
Nonprofits react as well
Reed Scott-Schwalbach, president, Oregon Education Association:
“Today’s decision overturns decades of precedent establishing privacy in matters relating to procreation, marriage, and how an individual or individuals choose to raise a family. OEA believes that family planning and reproductive health decisions should be left to individuals, and that our members have a right to privacy in decisions they make about how and when they choose to create and raise a family.”
Alejandro Queral, executive director, Oregon Center for Public Policy:
“This Supreme Court ruling could be used to curtail access to contraceptives and undermine privacy rights, including the right to marry whomever we love. Efforts to further restrict reproductive freedom are already under way across the country. The freedoms of women, people of color, and queer and trans communities are all under threat. It is they who will bear the brunt of the economic harm.”
Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette:
“By overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court has now officially given politicians permission to control what we do with our bodies, deciding that we can no longer be trusted to determine the course for our own lives. This dangerous and chilling decision will have devastating consequences across the country, forcing people to travel hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles for care or remain pregnant.”
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