The U.S. Supreme Court has ended nearly 50 years of the constitutional right to an abortion. But today’s 6-3 conservative-leaning decision is not a complete surprise. A draft of the high court’s opinion was leaked last month.
The decision means the legality of abortion is now left up to individual states. Along the West Coast, abortion rights are still protected with the governors of California, Oregon and Washington issuing a Multi-State Commitment to Reproductive Freedom.
Martha Reilly is a doctor with Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Oregon who has provided abortion care to patients for more than three decades. She joined All Things Considered host Tiffany Camhi to explain the effect the Supreme Court decision will have on the state.
Tiffany Camhi: What was your initial reaction to the overturning of Roe v. Wade?
Martha Reilly: Well, frankly, I never thought that we would go back to this. I’m old enough that I remember life pre-Roe. I was not a physician pre-Roe, but my father was and my mother was a nurse and I thought we’d never go back to this. And I’m sad, but I am resolute. We are still here [and] we are going to welcome people who can come to us, and we will take care of them.
Tiffany Camhi: The draft opinion to overturn abortion rights was leaked in early May, but how long have you and other abortion providers been preparing for this reality?
Martha Reilly: For at least the last two years. The court has been moving ever further right and there have been some signals from various justices towards today’s ruling. So we’ve been planning for some time what to do. We have beefed up our staff. We are expanding our telehealth capabilities and because we expect that people will be coming from out of state, we are setting up abortion navigation systems and [are] preparing for people who are a little further along than we ideally would like to have them. Ideally, if someone wants pregnancy termination, we want to get that person cared for promptly. Nothing gets better with time, nothing gets better with delay, but we’re ready to welcome clients from out of state.
Tiffany Camhi: The governors of Oregon, Washington, and California issued a joint statement shortly after the Supreme Court decision vowing to protect abortion rights on the West Coast. Oregon already is the only state in the nation without restrictions on abortion. Do you anticipate [this decision will have] any effect on Oregonians seeking abortions?
Martha Reilly: The only effect I expect here in Oregon is that we’re going to see a lot more volume. So if you’re an Oregonian seeking an abortion… it’s like going to a favorite restaurant that people come from all over the country [are going to]. People are going to be coming to Oregon, California, and Washington. And so we’re going to be very, very busy. The Guttmacher Institute is predicting that our volumes will be 234 percent of what they are now. So as I said, we’ve been beefing up our staff and getting ready. Trying to expand access in numbers and places and expanding our telehealth services to meet that demand.
Tiffany Camhi: Overturning Roe V Wade was met with both celebration and outrage and we’ve already seen several demonstrations in support and against it. What do you see as the next steps for people who want to restore abortion rights in the US?
Martha Reilly: I think people across the country have become complacent in the last 50 years. You could sort of ignore someone’s abortion stances and say, “Oh well, I like this person’s policies and yes, he’s pro-life, but I’m still going to vote for him.” At this point, our rights are on the line everywhere and we’re just going to have to be looking very carefully at who we vote for, where we live, where we spend our money. We are going to need to use our voice. We’re going to need to volunteer to help change laws in some of the Red States and we’re going to need to vote. This is the right of every person in this country to control their own destiny. It is a fundamental right and we need to take it back. We need to take a stand now and speak out.