The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade yesterday puts the power to allow or ban abortions in the hands of state governments. In Oregon and Washington abortion remains a fully legal health procedure, protected by state law. But that’s not the case in several other states, here abortion clinics are already closing.
OPB’s health reporter Amelia Templeton joined “All Things Considered” host Tiffany Camhi to discuss how the decision could impact the Northwest.
Tiffany Camhi: Amelia, this decision from the Supreme Court won’t affect abortion access in Oregon or in Washington. Can you explain why?
Amelia Templeton: Yes. This ruling means states are responsible for making their own laws regarding abortion access. Oregon and Washington broadly allow it. There are no waiting periods, no parental consent requirement for minors. And you don’t need to be an Oregon or Washington resident to receive an abortion legally here, or any other type of health care, for that matter.
In fact, Gov. Kate Brown, Gov. Jay Inslee and California’s governor announced today that the three states intend to work together to protect abortion providers and patients on the West Coast.
Camhi. That’s interesting. Can you tell me more about this joint announcement from West Coast governors?
Templeton: What it amounts to is trying to shore up various kinds of legal protection around abortion providers and their patients in Oregon.
They said that they will resist intrusion by out-of-state prosecutors or law enforcement trying to investigate patients who receive services in our state, with steps like directing local prosecutors and law enforcement agencies not to cooperate with other states on arrests or prosecutions related to abortion.
But I think we really have to take this as a political statement with a bit of a grain of salt, because both abortion opponents and abortion supporters have said there’s tremendous uncertainty right now.
The director of Planned Parenthood described this as a new world where what has been established law and precedent got completely overthrown, and the legal landscape is mass confusion.
ACLU said they are still reviewing what potential risks people in Oregon — doctors, friends — might face if they help someone from Idaho travel to obtain an abortion here.
These are complicated difficult legal questions and there’s tremendous uncertainty right now.
Camhi: Let’s take a step back here. The court’s decision comes after decades of strategizing by abortion opponents. How are anti-abortion organizations in Oregon reacting today?
Templeton. They believe that Roe was wrongly decided and that this was the right decision.
I talked with Lois Anderson, the executive director of Oregon Right to Life. She said she’s committed her entire adult life to this and didn’t know if she would live to see this day, and that her group doesn’t see this as the end. They will continue to work on state-level policy, for example, pushing to ban abortions later in pregnancy in Oregon.
She was very clear. “This is not the end for us,” she said.
Lois Anderson: This is just the beginning and it’s our responsibility to … look within our communities for, mothers who are in unsupported pregnancies or are in situations where they need help. It’s up to us to walk alongside them.
Camhi: And what are you hearing people on the other side of the debate, abortion rights advocates?
Templeton: A few things. First, that this is a wrong decision. That it was a political decision on the part of the Supreme Court and it stripped women of their autonomy.
Here’s how An Do, with Planned Parenthood, described what the court has done for people who can carry pregnancies:
An Do: They have failed this country. The court is stealing our own power to control our own bodies, our lives, and personal medical decisions and handing that over to politicians.
Templeton: I also heard that, for people with money and family connections, abortion will now maybe be more inconvenient, something that people travel to another state to seek.
But for many others — pregnant teenagers, victims of domestic violence, women of color, poor women in rural areas — they may just not have the resources to travel. And so they will end up bearing children against their will, in situations they didn’t want.
I think the last thing advocates are saying is, in spite of everything, abortion clinics across the state remain open and continue to see patients, including today.
Camhi: Amelia, thank you for your reporting on this.
Templeton: Thank you.