By Sherri Kolade
In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court voted to overturn the decades-old Roe v. Wade ruling that created the constitutional right to abort in the U.S. in 1973, NBC News reported.
The court’s decision created a ripple effect of protests and outpouring of mixed reactions that is also anticipated to give individual states the ability to set their own abortion laws “without concern of running afoul of Roe,” according to the article, which for nearly 50 years had granted abortions during the first two trimesters of pregnancy.
Nearly half the states are anticipated to outlaw or “severely restrict abortion” due to the Supreme Court’s decision, which is tied to a highly restrictive and recent Mississippi abortion law, according to the article.
The court’s only three liberal justices filed a dissenting opinion to the decision.
“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the article.
Attorney General Dana Nessel today issued the following statement regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, which has now overturned Roe v. Wade, the seminal 1973 court decision that granted women in all 50 states the constitutional right to control their own reproductive health choices. As a result of today’s decision, the legality of abortion care will now be left up to each state to decide.
“Although we knew this was coming after the leak of Justice Alito’s draft decision, it doesn’t make it any less shocking or unnerving that Americans will lose a fundamental right they’ve had for nearly my entire lifetime,” Nessel said in a statement. “To millions of Michiganders, this isn’t some abstract fight about social issues. These are kitchen table concerns that impact our ability to be economically stable, continue our education, and plan for our future. We all have our own personal beliefs about abortion; the decision of whether to terminate a pregnancy is a deeply personal one that should not be controlled by the state. There’s a big difference between adhering to your own personal beliefs and forcing others to abide by them.”
Nessel pointed out that Michigan is among the 26 states with an existing law on the books, dating back to 1931, that criminalizes abortion and makes it a felony to perform one, and has no exceptions for rape or incest. The law could be interpreted so that anyone, from the receptionist who schedules the appointment to a billing administrator, could be charged with “aiding and abetting” the termination of a pregnancy. That would have a chilling effect on all reproductive care in Michigan, she added, putting women at risk of injury and death.
“As I’ve repeatedly made clear, I will not use the resources of the Attorney General’s office to enforce an unconstitutional law that will allow the state into our bedrooms and doctor’s appointments, interfering with our fundamental reproductive rights,” Nessel said. “As long as I’m in office, I will not prosecute women, girls, or their doctors for seeking or providing abortion services. Nor will my staff seek licensure
discipline against medical professionals who safely perform these procedures.”
Nessel’s opponent for attorney general, Republican Matt DePerno, has said repeatedly that he’s against abortion even in cases of rape, incest, or a dire medical emergency – no exceptions. “My opponent even claims there is no such thing as a life-saving medical procedure that would require terminating a pregnancy – an idea that doctors, nurses, and anyone who has experienced an ectopic pregnancy knows is unequivocally false. And if DePerno wins the November election, he will have the authority to charge people in every county across Michigan.”
Nessel said the overturning of Roe will have additional negative consequences. “I’ve been putting domestic violence advocates on high alert: expect to see an increase in partner assault cases, including homicides, because of Roe being overturned. If women can’t exercise their right to terminate a pregnancy, that will leave them anchored to their abusers for the rest of their lives. Being forced to carry a fetus would cause catastrophic harm to women already in a precarious situation.”
Nessel urged voters who want to maintain their reproductive rights to make their voices heard at the ballot box in November.
Many Black advocacy groups assert that the SCOTUS decision is closely linked with race. Gynecological experiments and forced sterilizations have historically impacted Black women in the U.S., per ABC News.
“We all need to be able to determine how many children we’re going to have if we’re going to have children. We all have a human right to make decisions about our bodies,” said Toni Bond, the scholar who coined the phrase “reproductive justice” in the 90s to separate the concerns of Black women from those of white feminists.
Black women are also more likely to die from childbirth than white women. A federal study reports that college-educated Black women are five times more likely to die from pregnancy than white women who went to college.
The access and expense of health care and police brutality are other factors that especially concern Black women.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also made a statement on the ruling.
“Today is a sad day for America as an unelected group of conservative judges act squarely against the will of the people and medical expertise. We can all sense the despair that tens of millions of Americans—our neighbors, family members and friends—are feeling right now. However we personally feel about abortion, health—not politics—should drive important medical decisions,” Whitmer said. “I will fight like hell to protect every Michiganders’ right to make decisions about their own body with the advice of a medical professional they trust. I will not give in or give up for my kids, your kids, and the future of our great state.”
Lt. Gov. Gilchrist also released a statement.
“Today is a tragic day for Americans and Michiganders. Against medical expertise and the overwhelming majority of Americans who support this constitutional right, a group of conservative judges we did not elect have stripped access to reproductive healthcare from tens of millions of Americans. We can all sense the hopelessness and despair that our neighbors, family, and friends are feeling right now,” he said. “However we personally feel about abortion, health, not politics, should drive major medical decisions. Governor Whitmer and I are committed to ensuring this constitutional right is protected here in Michigan.”
The governor filed a lawsuit and asked the Michigan Supreme Court to recognize a constitutional right to an abortion under the Due Process Clause of the Michigan Constitution. It also asks the court to stop enforcement of the 1931 Michigan abortion ban. The abortion ban violates Michigan’s due process clause, which provides a right to privacy and bodily autonomy that is violated by the state’s near-total criminal ban of abortion. It also violates Michigan’s Equal Protection Clause due to the way the ban denies women equal rights because the law was adopted to reinforce antiquated notions of the proper role for women in society.
Governor Whitmer’s executive directive instructs departments not to cooperate with or assist authorities of any state in any investigation or proceeding against anyone for obtaining, providing, or assisting someone else to obtain or provide reproductive healthcare that is legal where the health care is provided.
State of Michigan departments and agencies must also identify and assess potential opportunities to increase protections for reproductive health care, consistent with applicable law. They must detail how they can increase choices available to protect mental, physical, and reproductive health; safeguard the privacy of individuals seeking care; and assure the safety of reproductive healthcare providers.
Additionally, departments and agencies that communicate directly with the public on reproductive issues must provide accessible, comprehensive information about the current cost and availability of reproductive care and increase public awareness about the availability and safety of contraception.
According to a poll from January 2022, 67.3% of Michiganders support Roe and 65.7% support repealing Michigan’s 1931 trigger ban on abortion. Over 77%, believe abortion should be a woman’s decision. A sizeable majority of Michiganders agree that abortion is a decision to for a woman to make in consultation with a medical professional she trusts.
The executive directive can be viewed here.
Black Information Network contributed to this report.