A leaked Supreme Court decision Monday night would set women’s rights back 49 years, an act many had anticipated but even more had thought would be more limited. Instead, a draft of Justice Samuel Alito’s writing leaked to Politico made plain the court’s intent to overturn 1973’s Roe v. Wade and 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey — the two landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases that upheld the right to terminate a pregnancy within certain bounds.
In Santa Barbara, supporters for a woman’s right to choose will rally at De la Guerra Plaza at 5 p.m. this evening, May 3, joined by elected officials who are in session at City Council and the Board of Supervisors today.
“We’ve been preparing for a while,” said Luz Reyes-Martín, a spokesperson for Santa Barbara’s Planned Parenthood, which is organizing the rally and has been at the forefront in providing reproductive health care to women and men in the area. She said a range of emotions has overtaken everyone she’s encountered as they take in the shocking news that was also not surprising.
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“From what we heard on December 1, when the Supreme Court had the hearing for this case, it was pretty clear where the majority of the court was going to fall. What was unknown was precisely how far they would go,” Reyes-Martín said. “Now, based on the leaked decision, we know they intend to completely overturn Roe and Casey.” In Roe, abortion was a woman’s privacy right in the first trimester, or 12 weeks after conception, and a matter of maternal health in the second trimester, or 24 weeks post-conception. Casey narrowed state laws on abortion with an “undue burden” test, which in this Pennsylvania case was limited to notification of a husband.
“If this opinion becomes the law of the land, it’s likely that people in 26 states will lose their rights and access to abortion this year,” said Jenna Tosh, president of Planned Parenthood California Central Coast, in a written statement. “The ability to get an abortion will depend on where you live, and how much money you have. A strong majority of Americans support the constitutional right to abortion and do not want to see Roe overturned.”
Reyes-Martín said the speculation had been that the weeks of viability might have anchored a decision in the case before the Supreme Court, which is a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks. Alito’s finding overturns any right to abortion by arguing that it is not a right in the Constitution or in law.
A sense was growing in recent months that this would not happen in America, Reyes-Martín said, and had created something of a believability gap, according to reports Planned Parenthood had heard locally and from its partners across the country. “There was a feeling of, ‘No, this can’t actually happen. They can’t actually undo nearly 50 years of precedent,'” she said. “Because it is unprecedented for a civil liberty to be rolled back like this.”
As for the question of Planned Parenthood’s next steps, Tosh stated: “To Californians, and people who may seek care here — Planned Parenthood’s doors will remain open. And we will do everything we can to continue to provide abortion services to all who need them.”
The rally today is the first of an expected series of reactions to the Supreme Court’s direction. “People are feeling like they want to get together,” Reyes-Martín said, who added that a national day of response was likely to occur in the near future.
“The theme is that abortion is still legal today, and we are ready to fight to keep it that way,” she said, adding that another rally takes place in Santa Maria at city hall.