Local reaction to Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling: An unsurprising step back

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  • Shoshona King, right, of Amherst and her daughter, Arwen King, on bagpipes, have a standout on the corner of Amity and South Pleasant streets in Amherst following the overturning of Roe v. Wade on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Yelena Ladey of Newton comments on the overturning of Roe v. Wade on Friday, June 24, 2022, outside the University of Massachusetts student union during a visit to the Amherst campus with her daughter, an entering first-year. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Paul Belt of Boston, parent of an incoming freshman at the University of Amherst, comments on the overturning of Roe v. Wade during a visit to the student union at the Amherst campus on Friday, June 24, 2022. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Bessie Potter of New Jersey comments on the overturning of Roe v. Wade during a visit to the University of Massachusetts Amherst on Friday, June 24, 2022, on the occasion of her granddaughter receiving her masters degree. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Kathy Denke of Connecticut comments on the overturning of Roe v. Wade during a visit to the University of Massachusetts Amherst student union with her sons on Friday, June 24, 2022. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Paul Belt of Boston, parent of an incoming freshman at the University of Amherst, comments on the overturning of Roe v. Wade during a visit to the student union at the Amherst campus on Friday, June 24, 2022. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 6/24/2022 7:23:06 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Abortion rights advocates across the Valley denounced the Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade on Friday, which strips away federal constitutional protections that guarantees a woman’s right to an abortion.

The news was not a surprise for many, however, as hundreds of people protested in downtown Northampton just last month to voice opposition to a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion the forshadowed Friday’s decision.

“I’m absolutely not surprised,” said Carrie Baker, professor and chairperson of the program for the study of women and gender at Smith College. “I think it’s a callous and inhumane decision. I think it’s a sort of bellwether sign of the erosion of our democracy.”

“Over two-thirds of Americans support abortion rights and a Supreme Court hand-picked by an extreme presidential candidate and jammed through the Senate has overturned, for the first time in U.S. history, a constitutional right. … It’s appalling.”

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, wrote in a tweet that if it’s not clear, “the court is coming for more fundamental rights.”

“I’m disgusted by today’s vile decision from this extremist and illegitimate Supreme Court,” McGovern wrote.

U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, described the ruling as a “dangerous culmination of Republicans’ decades-long effort to roll back women’s freedoms and control their health care decisions.

“This is a distressing and shameful step backwards,” said Neal in a statement. “Democrats will fight like hell to protect women’s rights.”

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren also pledged that Democrats would fight back.

“After decades of scheming, Republican politicians have finally forced their unpopular agenda on the rest of America. They have decided that the government — not the person who is pregnant — should make a private health care decision and deny women the right to control their own bodies and futures. But these extremists will not have the final word,” Warren said. “We are angry — angry and determined. We will not go back. Not now. Not ever.”

In the wake of the court’s ruling on Friday, the Gazette spoke to a number of people at the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus.

“I’m terrified,” said Kathy Denke, a Connecticut parent of a student attending the university. “I don’t think it’s anyone’s business what happens to other people’s bodies. No one should be able to tell you what you can and can’t do. … It’s sad to see what’s on the minds of the Supreme Court.”

“It’s a sad day for this country,” said Bessie Potter of New Jersey.

Yelena Lavey, of Newton, said she felt it’s time to mobilize. While abortion remains legal in Massachusetts, she said that residents here shouldn’t take it for granted.

Still, not everyone in the region disapproved of the ruling.

Bishop William Byrne of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield said he affirmed the Supreme Court’s decision and felt that the state still had “much work to do” so that all citizens recognize the sanctity of human life.

“We continue to work, advocate and pray that our brothers and sisters will recognize the right to life of the most vulnerable among us,” said Byrne in a statement. “This includes not just the unborn who are so precious to us, but all people who are vulnerable. We will continue to work to affirm this right, the right given by God alone that all life is sacred and intended.”

Moving forward, Baker, of Smith College, said she has concerns about the health consequences of this ruling. In the short term, a lack of access to reproductive health services will disproportionately fall on poor women, young women, women of color and other people who are pregnant.

In the long term, she feels those that those that intend on carrying pregnancies to term and experience a medical condition or suffer a miscarriage might suffer more. She said that doctors in states that have abortion bans will likely not perform abortions out of fear of being thrown in jail or losing their license.

“A lot more people in this country give birth than need abortions, and I think those people giving birth are going to have a lot of health problems … I think the health consequences are going to fall most harshly on people who carry their pregnancies to term,” she said.

State officials condemn ruling

After the Supreme Court decision was announced, Gov. Charlie Baker signed an executive order protecting access to reproductive health care services in the state.

While abortion remains legal in Massachusetts, several other states have imposed laws that would criminalize providing abortions and other reproductive health services. Under this executive order, providers who deliver reproductive health care services are protected from losing their professional licenses or receiving other professional discipline based on potential out-of-state charges.

“I am deeply disappointed in today’s decision by the Supreme Court which will have major consequences for women across the country who live in states with limited access to reproductive health care services,” Baker said. “In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v Wade, it is especially important to ensure that Massachusetts providers can continue to provide reproductive health care services without concern that the laws of other states may be used to interfere with those services or sanction them for providing services that are lawful in the Commonwealth.”

The order also prohibits any executive department agencies from assisting another state’s investigation into a person or entity for receiving or delivering reproductive health services in Massachusetts, said state Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, D-Northampton. The order states that Massachusetts agencies will not cooperate with extradition requests from other states pursuing criminal charges against individuals who received, assisted with, or performed reproductive health services that are legal in Massachusetts.

Sabadosa, who co-founded the Pioneer Valley Women’s March, says that while Baker’s executive order offers a glimmer of good news, the day remains a heartbreaking and infuriating one.

“We have become a country where my generation, my daughter’s generation has less rights than my mother’s,” she said. “Right now, clinics in states with trigger laws are calling patients to tell them that they need to drive hundreds of miles to go to other states to obtain abortion care. That is what the Supreme Court just did. There is no equality and no freedom for pregnant individuals who want to make decisions about their own bodies. We have slid backwards in time and now have less rights than previous generations.”

Now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned, there are 13 states where an abortion ban went into effect immediately: Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.

State Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, reminded constituents in a social media post that abortion is still legal in Massachusetts.

“Even though we expected this,” Comerford said, “today’s news is a gut punch nonetheless.”

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.

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