The Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade was not a surprise after a draft opinion eliminating the right to abortion was leaked in early May. Even before the 50-year-old decision protecting federal rights of those seeking abortions was overturned, access to the procedure had been dwindling for years in many states. In recent years, the Oregon legislature created a fund to help those in-state and out-of-state with expenses needed to access abortion care here.
Our guests include Lois Anderson with Oregon Right to Life, Christel Allen with Pro-Choice Oregon, and Mary Stark who provides abortions and helps lead Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Oregon. We also talk with Jim Oleske, a Lewis & Clark constitutional law scholar, and OBGYN Jennifer Lincoln, who recently launched an abortion access campaign called “Three for Freedom.”
We’ll also be taking your calls live on the air about your personal experience with abortion.
Note: The following transcript was created by a computer and edited by a volunteer.
Geoff Norcross: This is Think Out Loud on OPB, I’m Geoff Norcross, in for Dave Miller. The US Supreme Court released its opinion on the case known as Dobbs vs Jackson Women’s Health on Friday. The ruling ended the federal right to an abortion that has been in place since Roe vs Wade was decided in 1973. In the majority opinion, the justices ruled that the decision on legalizing or outlawing abortion should return to “the people and their elected representatives.” That means the states.
Here’s the thing though, the states have wildly different answers on the question of abortion rights. And Oregon is among the most protective states in the country, especially compared to Texas or Mississippi or even our neighbor Idaho. We’re going to spend a good portion of this hour exploring the legal, social, and medical implications of the Supreme Court ruling in Oregon. And we would love to hear from you. What is your experience with abortion? How did legal access to the procedure change things for you? Are you concerned about your access to abortion going away? Our phone number is 1-888-665-5865.
We’re gonna start the conversation with Mary Stark, Clinical Services Director for Planned Parenthood of Southwest Oregon. Mary, welcome to Think Out Loud.
Mary Stark: Well thank you Geoff for having me on.
Norcross: Planned Parenthood, the national one, has been on the front lines of this fight over abortion access for decades. How will this ruling affect your organization?
Stark: Well, I think this is the moment that many of us have been preparing for for a few years now. We’ve watched access to abortion be chipped away by various state laws across our country, by regulations designed to prevent people from getting legal abortions. And while we’re all pretty devastated to see this actually happen in our lifetimes, we’re pretty ready for this for this moment to not only fight like we’ve never fought before to bring access back, but also to do what we do best, which is provide high quality health care for sexual and reproductive health, that full range of reproductive health, including abortion care. So I think we’re ready.
Norcross: We kind of knew this was coming since a draft of the ruling was leaked in May. What has your organization done since then to prepare for that official ruling that came down on Friday?
Stark: Oh, gee, I would have to go even further back than that Geoff. I would say for me personally, December 1st, 2021 was the moment that I realized I was living through a time where I will have fewer rights than I used to. My child will have fewer rights than their mom or their grandmother had. And that was the day that oral arguments were heard in this case. And that was the day when it really hit home that this could happen. That Roe could be, and is now, overturned.
We have been staffing up. We’ve been looking at our processes as healthcare organizations to really see how can we provide the best access we can, how can our teams be maximally efficient and effective so that they can see more patients if and when they need to. We’re opening up more appointment slots. Everything is a little bit in a state of transition and flux, fluidity right now. Because right now, we have the decision, we have the worst outcome, and we already have eight states that are totally banned, and we anticipate that many more states will follow that and have bans. So it’s hard to say what next week will bring, or next month will bring, because things are changing across states right now.
We’ve increased access as much as we could, and we’re looking to increase more and more access. And then some tough decisions will need to be made about do we have to, in some ways, limit access to the needed full range of sexual and reproductive care in order to be able to meet the demand for access to abortion services. Abortion is healthcare. We need to be able to provide that health care.
Norcross: The state is creating a fund to help defray the cost of residents of other states who are coming here for abortions. Do you anticipate a wave of people showing up in your clinic now?
Stark: That’s the part of that fluidity that I was talking about. Being in a state of unknown for what the future will bring is incredibly hard for everyone. But that’s where we’re at right now. I don’t know if we’ll see a wave so much as a trickle, because like I said, eight states are banned at the moment And we know that, for example, our neighbor state Idaho will have a ban in effect by July 25th, unless there are some legal strategies that change that.
I think it’s going to be more of a slow trickle than a wave. We’re at the far outer edge of those ripples. If you think about a stone being dropped into water and the ripple effects that go out from that, we have seen that stone happen, that drop in the near total ban that happened in Texas in 2021. And the most immediate states, the most adjacent states were affected. And then you feel those ripple effects further and further out from where those bans happen. Geographically, we’re further away for the most part from those population centers where access will be denied.
Norcross: But we do have a neighbor, you mentioned Idaho. And there could be people coming across the border looking for abortion services in Oregon or Washington. Are there clinics that can provide those services in the eastern part of the state right now to help those people?
Stark: What I know is that that is our sister affiliate Planned Parenthood of Columbia Willamette’s territory. And I know that they’re looking at that, and they’re looking at access in that area of our state, and really trying to come up with the best plan for being able to provide care to all Oregonians, and to all people who come into our state needing that health care.
Norcross: You’re a nurse practitioner and you have performed abortions yourself. What do people need to know about the procedure?
Stark: Well, what I want my patients to know, and what I want every person to know, anyone who’s got a uterus, who’s capable of becoming pregnant, is that first thing’s first, we’re here to support you in whatever your choice may be. If that means that you need health care in the form of an abortion, we’re absolutely here for that.
The procedure itself is pretty simple and pretty straightforward. There’s nothing in life that doesn’t come without some risks with it, particularly in health care. So we talk about those risks. We talk about how it is a very, very, very, just incredibly safe procedure. When you look at the number of complications that happen, they tend to be relatively minor complications, and they tend to be fairly infrequent. What I usually talk with people about is what they might experience throughout the procedure, what they might experience afterwards in terms of the physical sensations of it. And the fact that even though we know there are risks, it is overall, overwhelmingly, a very safe medical procedure.
Norcross: Mary Stark, thank you so much.
Stark: Thank you.
Norcross: We heard from Kate Frick on Twitter. “I have been pregnant exactly twice and have two kids. However if I were to get pregnant today, I would without a doubt have an abortion, because my mental health cannot survive pregnancy, raising another baby, or adoption and the kids I do have need me to be alive.” You can also join us on Twitter, we’re @OPBTOL.
Let’s turn now to Lois Anderson, Executive Director of Oregon Right to Life. Lois Anderson, welcome to Think Out Loud, it’s good to have you.
When you first heard about this ruling from the US Supreme Court, what was your reaction?
Lois Anderson: Well, of course we had seen the draft in the unprecedented leak of this decision, and it was largely the same. And so it was joy, honestly. This was a full throated rejection of a decision that was wrongly decided in 1973. There is no right to abortion in the constitution. And now we have an opportunity to truly have a national discussion, a state by state discussion, an opportunity to care for women and for babies that are developing in our individual states.
Norcross: Oregon has some of the broadest protections for abortion in the country, and our elected leaders are promising to maintain them. Will you work to change that?
Anderson: Of course, yes, now given the opportunity. And we have been working to change that for pretty much our entire 50 year history.
Norcross: 26 states are expected to ban abortions as a result of this ruling. Some of those abortion bans could happen at six weeks of pregnancy. Is it fair for there to be a patchwork quilt of laws when it comes to abortion? And is it fair for an access to abortion be dictated by what state you live in?
Anderson: Well, I don’t think that I’m the one to discuss the fairness. I will talk about what we intend to do here in Oregon, which we have been working on, which is to seek consensus with the majority of Oregonians who are very uncomfortable, and do not want late term abortions to be easily accessible in Oregon. We think it’s something to work on that when a developing human fetus can feel pain, that might be a good opportunity to limit abortions at that point.
While as an organization and individual pro-life people we know that human life begins at fertilization and develops from there, we are more than willing to work on legislation and policies that will bring Oregonians together and protect unborn children, as well as working on policies that will reach out to mothers and help them as well.
Norcross: The legislature is committed to maintaining abortion protections in the state, at least for now, and they are providing money to help residents from other states come here to get the procedure. How do you feel about the Legislature spending money in that way?
Anderson: How do I feel about it? Well, I’m pretty much outraged by it. I think that utilizing tax dollars that hard working Oregonians have paid to the government to provide services within our state need to stay within our state. And I understand that the first million dollars from the fund has been dispersed to the Northwest Abortion Access Fund. Is there any kind of oversight to know exactly how that money is going to be spent? It’s a regional organization. I think that Oregonians, regardless of their position of legal abortion, are going to have issues and problems with that kind of policy.
Norcross: Will your organization work to file a ballot measure to restrict abortion in this state?
Anderson: We have no plans to file a ballot measure at this time.
Norcross: Will you file a lawsuit?
Anderson: A lawsuit in regards to our current laws? No, we don’t have an opportunity to do that at this point.
Norcross: Can you be specific about what your organization plans to do?
Anderson: We plan to introduce legislation at the legislature and and seek to limit abortions, late term partial birth abortions, in in a way that we can bring consensus.
Norcross: Okay, thank you so much for your time, I appreciate it.
Anderson: You bet.
Norcross: Let’s now move to Christel Allen, the Executive Director of Pro-Choice Oregon. Christel, thank you so much for joining us on Think Out Loud.
Christel Allen: Thanks so much for having me.
Norcross: We’re asking the same thing of everybody, what was your reaction to the ruling when you heard it on Friday?
Allen: I mean personally, it’s devastating. Even though we knew that this was where things were heading following the leaked decision. Even earlier than that, we could see that this was where things were headed, really with the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It doesn’t mean it was any easier to hear. I will say that knowing that abortion remains legal and available in Oregon is something that I think all Oregonians should know and feel thankful for in this moment. But it doesn’t make it any easier to know that people are going to be harmed and lives will be devastated around this country.
I think one of the biggest feelings is what can we do here locally to impact change across the country, and make sure that we’re doing everything we can to mitigate the harm that this decision is going to cause for millions.
Norcross: West Coast governors are united here. The governors of Oregon, Washington, and California came out with a statement affirming their commitment to protecting reproductive care, including abortions. And Governor Brown said “You cannot ban abortion. You can only ban safe abortions. And this disgraceful Supreme Court decision will undoubtedly put people’s lives at risk.” How are you feeling about the elected leaders’ reaction to the Supreme Court decision here on the West Coast?
Allen: We’re again very thankful that we have elected leadership on the West Coast that sees this action for what it is. This is not about pro-life, this is about control over people’s bodies who can become pregnant. And it is wonderful to live in a state that we affirm that all people should have bodily autonomy, and that our elected leaders understand that and are going to be working to ensure that this care, which is foundational for the ability to plan one’s life, one’s future, remains accessible and available to all those who need it, and can receive it here in our West Coast states.
Norcross: We got a voicemail from Tom in Le Grande about a conversation he had with a girlfriend decades ago about whether to get an abortion. Let’s hear a bit of that.
Tom: I’m in my 60s, and nearly 30 years ago, a new girlfriend, she told me that she was doing cocaine. Then she showed me some, and I was telling her this isn’t cocaine, this is meth. Then a little bit later, she called me and told me that she was pregnant. And she had an ultrasound at nine weeks, and professionals there told her by nine weeks it should have started developing arm buds and a little more developed. But they said it was really underdeveloped. Then I’m thinking it’s because of the meth. So I was telling her my hesitation about the baby. And we discussed abortion. I told her it might be a good idea in these circumstances.
So now I’m really conflicted because I’ve been a nurse’s assistant for nearly 10 years. I’ve cared for people like that. And still today I think it would have really ruined my life. But on the other hand, it’s still a life, but what kind of life would it be? And so I feel conflicted.
Norcross: Christel, what goes through your mind when you hear stories like that?
Allen: I’ve heard many similar stories, and I just want to recognize that these are decisions that can be very complex and complicated. That they involve someone making decisions for what is best for them, what is best for their current circumstance and situation.
One of the things I try to hold myself to is just radical neutrality. Every emotion that one may feel when deciding if now is the right time to have children, all of those emotions are valid. And the best thing I think we can do is just to hold space and listen. And so when I hear stories, I just do my best to listen. I don’t know what it’s like to be in this caller’s shoes, but it sounds like it had a profound impact. And we only know through his words what the person who was pregnant was going through. And so it’s not for any of us to judge. That’s really what I try to hold myself to when folks are sharing stories, is just to be there, to support people, and to listen.
Norcross: What do you think is the way forward for Pro-Choice Oregon and other pro-abortion rights organizations in the state? Where do you go from here?
Allen: We’re really blessed to have some fantastic leadership in the state. We feel like we’ve already started the plan. The plan is already in motion. Starting in 2017, with the passage of the Reproductive Health Equity Act, we codified the protections of Roe into state law, foreseeing this exact same situation that we’re in today.
And then building on that, in the 2022 short session, we passed a $15 million investment in reproductive health equity that is currently being administered by the Seeding Justice Foundation, which has been a great partner in overseeing many community centered programs, including the Oregon Worker Relief program. This is going to help us make key investments to ensure that access remains available for people in our state. There are people in Eastern Oregon who are going to have to navigate additional barriers of travel in order to receive care at one of our clinics, which for the most part, are off of the I-5 corridor and in Bend, Oregon. And so we want to make sure that patients have the resources they need to receive care, because rights are only rights if you can afford to access them or travel to receive them. And so that is part of what the spirit of this fund is meant to do.
In addition, Mary Stark spoke to some of the potential demand and strains that her clinics are going to be under. And we want to make sure that our providers have everything they can to meet these new challenges, and to provide the amazing care that they do.
Norcross: We heard earlier from Lois Anderson of Oregon Right to Life saying her organization is going to introduce a bill in the next legislative session. What might you do to prepare for that?
Allen: Well, that’s why my organization is unapologetically political. We get involved and endorse pro-choice candidates up and down the ballot, because those rights that we have worked so hard to protect, to defend, and to expand in this country are reliant on maintaining strong pro-choice majorities in the Oregon state legislature.
One of the things that matters is maintaining those majorities so that we can defend any type of legislation that would undermine the rights that we have safeguarded in this state. So we’re gonna be doing everything we can to elect those fantastic reproductive equity champions to the legislature to keep fighting for these bills, make sure that these bills often don’t get a hearing in Salem, because we have so many fantastic leaders who say no. These are rights that Oregonians have voted to affirm time and time again. This is not a useful time to be putting these potential rights at risk with legislation that would undermine, like what was spoken by the caller earlier. This is the time to make sure that we’re affirming and expanding access to care, now more than ever.
Norcross: Christel Allen, thank you so much. It was a pleasure to speak with you.
Allen: You’re very welcome, thank you.
Norcross: Let’s take a call now from Megan. Megan, welcome to Think Out Loud.
Megan: Hi. So I moved here from West Virginia about six years ago, and I am absolutely outraged. I am frightened for friends and family that are still in West Virginia. Before I was born, actually, my mom had an ectopic pregnancy. And if she had not had the access to abortion that Roe vs Wade provided, she wouldn’t be here, and I wouldn’t be here. It’s really scary to watch this happening and feel quite helpless.
Norcross: And West Virginia is one of the most restrictive states in the country when it comes to abortion rights, isn’t it?
Megan: Yes. The West Virginia governor actually tweeted right after the decision was released in support of it. And so I imagine that they will be making it very hard to get an abortion.
Norcross: Thank you so much for sharing that Megan. I appreciate it.
Megan: Thank you.
Norcross: Let’s also go to Jane who is on the Oregon coast. Jane, welcome to Think Out Loud.
Jane: Hi. I’d like to talk about the effect on mothers that give up their babies for adoption, which I did before Roe was made law. And even though it was practically an ideal adoption, it was still traumatic And it affected my relationship 10 years later when I had children. I know a handful of other women in their seventies who went through the same thing, and we never got over it.
I’ve also had an abortion. And let me tell you, the feeling was just immediate relief. My grandmother had one, my mother, my sisters, other members of my family. And having a child that you want is the greatest thing in the world. Having a baby you don’t want is just dread
Norcross: Jane, thank you so much for sharing that.
Let’s talk about the legal implications of the decision with Jim Oleske. He teaches constitutional law at Lewis & Clark College in Portland. Jim, welcome to the show.
Jim Oleske: Good afternoon.
Norcross: So what are the legal implications of this ruling in Oregon? How does this play out here?
Oleske: So, the legal implications in Oregon are limited at least in the short term because of the protections you’ve been talking about with your earlier guests. There are practical impacts, obviously, particularly on providers who will now also be seeing people coming from out of state.
We would only see legal impacts on women’s access here in Oregon if one of two things happened: either if the federal government at some point passed a law limiting or banning abortion nationwide, that obviously would impact access in Oregon. Or if a governor and the legislature was elected here at the state level that were to enact restrictions. But absent one of those two things happening, short term legal access will not be changed in Oregon.
Norcross: Oregon has has codified the right to an abortion into state law. Is it possible that that isn’t strong enough? Could there be some constitutional amendment that would make it stronger?
Oleske: Well, yes, having constitutional protection provides more security than just having a statute, because a statute can just be overturned by the next legislature. And this is true not only at the state level, but also at the federal level. You saw the president come out, President Bidenm shortly after this decision and call on people to elect members of Congress that would codify Roe’s protection at the federal level. But even that could be overturned then by a subsequent Congress. In order to have permanent protection, you would need protection either in the federal constitution, to have nationwide protection, or in the state constitution to have more secure protection in Oregon.
But even if we were to amend our state constitution, be aware that a federal statute would trump that. So if Congress passed a nationwide law banning or limiting abortion, that would preempt even a state constitutional protection.
Norcross: So the midterms have consequences.
Oleske: They have profound consequences, yes.
Norcross: Some states are considering banning travel to other states for the purpose of obtaining an abortion. What constitutional issues would that kick up?
Oleske: So that would implicate another constitutional right the court has recognized, the unenumerated rights. So like the previously recognized right to abortion, and a whole host of other rights, not one specifically listed in the constitution, but one the court has recognized, and that is the fundamental right to travel. But the fundamental right to travel has been the subject of a lot of confusion, because the court has explained it in different ways, applied it in different ways over time, and it’s unclear how it would apply in abortion cases. Although interestingly, Justice Kavanaugh, who was the fifth vote for Friday’s decision, wrote separately to say that in his view, states would not be able to punish women who traveled out of state for abortions. So it seems like currently, there are probably not five votes at this point to uphold state laws criminalizing women for for traveling out of state to obtain abortion.
Norcross: We talked with the other guests a little bit about this, but the Oregon legislature has set up a $15 million dollar fund to help residents do that, come here to Oregon from other states to get the procedure. Does that expose the state to some kind of legal risk?
Oleske: That’s an excellent question. I’m struggling to think of a circumstance in which another state would be able to go after Oregon. And another aspect, by the way, of the Oregon, California, and Washington three state pact that was announced is that the governors are not going to have law enforcement in all three states cooperate with law enforcement in other states that are trying to prosecute women from their states to travel here for abortion. But at least off the top of my head, I can’t think of a legal liability for the state in providing that funding.
Norcross: Okay, well, we’ll see about that. Some companies, like Adidas and Nike, have set up travel funds for their employees in states where abortion is restricted to travel to get the procedure in other states. Do you see those companies facing any kind of legal risk for using those funds in that way?
Oleske: Well, you know, what makes me think of most immediately is what we saw happen in Florida not too long ago, which is when the Disney Corporation made some decisions on high profile issues that the governor there got the legislature to revoke the statutory authority that the Disney company previously had. And so I could imagine battles in states between state legislatures and governors, and companies, depending on the decisions made by those companies. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more high profile conflicts like that going forward.
Norcross: Okay, well, thank you so much for your analysis, Jim, I appreciate it.
Oleske: My pleasure.
Norcross: Jim Oleske teaches constitutional law at Lewis & Clark College in Portland.
Jennifer writes on Twitter, “I was in my third year of medical school when I got pregnant. I had been suffering from endometriosis for my entire adult life, and I was told I could not get pregnant, as tissue obstructed both of my fallopian tubes. While with a steady partner, I did not use contraception and had never gotten pregnant in 12 years of sexual activity. The fact that I had the choice to terminate the pregnancy allowed me to complete my medical education, and to live the life I wanted, a life without children.”
Let’s bring Dr Jennifer Lincoln into this discussion. She’s an obstetrician and gynecologist practicing in Portland, and she joins us on the line. Dr Lincoln, thanks for joining us on Think Out Loud.
Jennifer Lincoln: Thanks so much for having me, Geoff.
Norcross: What effect do you think this ruling will have on patients’ health?
Lincoln: Well, that’s an interesting question because as an OBGYN, I don’t just consider a patient’s physical health. I consider their emotional and their mental health. And I know that this ruling will not only harm them physically when they’re forced to carry a pregnancy to term and expose themselves to the risks of pregnancy and the risks of birth, which we know are significant, and as have been said earlier, much more significant than the risk of abortion. But this will harm them emotionally and mentally. As we’ve seen in the turn away study, when people who wanted and needed abortion were turned away, that study showed that those people did much poorer later in life when it came to emotional health, not only of them, but also the children they were forced to bear.
And it’s also an interesting question because the National Right to Life Committee has recently put together a model law document that they say could be used as a template in states where abortion is now banned. And they specifically call out in that document that while they do agree with exceptions for the physical health of the pregnant person, such as they may die as the result of the pregnancy, they do not include emotional or mental health reasons under that umbrella, meaning that if a pregnant person indicated that she was going to kill herself or actually attempted suicide because of the pregnancy, that would not be reason enough to allow her to have an abortion. And I think that speaks volumes to that side of the coin.
Norcross: What kinds of questions are you getting from your patients now about the ruling and what it means for their family planning options, even in Oregon?
Lincoln: I use social media to educate. I have over three million followers on social media who are scared and desperate. And that’s where the majority of these questions are coming. And there’s a lot of scary misinformation out there. People who are worried that their contraception will not be covered, or is it already outlawed in certain states? And I want to be very clear that the overturning of Roe v. Wade has nothing to do with outlawing contraception. Yet. And we know that this is next in line for organizations that want to have reproductive control over people, meaning that they will soon use false claims that things like IUDs and emergency contraceptives are abortive. And they are not. And that is very clear.
And so patients are worried and they are wondering if they should pursue things like having their IUD replaced early, if they should pursue getting a tubal ligation, which I’m a huge supporter of if somebody wants permanent birth control, but not in this way, out of fear if they’re not completely sure. So people are absolutely terrified, Geoff.
Norcross: You launched a campaign called Three For Freedom, which is basically three things people who are concerned about their reproductive rights going away can do now. What are they?
Lincoln: So this is a website that’s meant to act like a Mcdonald’s drive thru hub, where you can access three things right then and there that you can have mailed to you if you’re not able to access these in person.
So the first thing is birth control and there are many forms that can be mailed to you, not just pills. The second is emergency contraception. And the third are medication abortion pills, which if you live in a state where abortion is currently outlawed, you still can get medication abortion pills mailed to you via Aid Access, which is linked on this website, threeforfreedom.com, as well as information. And the way that we’re able to do that is that Aid Access is based not in the United States, and the pharmacy that dispenses these pills is not based in the United States. And so they’re not subject to US law. So you can get all of these in a very simple form sent right to you so that you can take control now, and you can have all of these sent to you now. You do not need to be pregnant in order to have medication abortion pills sent to you. And this is so that you can be prepared and you don’t need to panic if and when this happens.
I would like to clarify, we don’t want people to stockpile these medications, because we don’t want shortages to harm people. But to have enough for you or maybe for a friend if something like this does happen, because in states where you will need to get these medications shipped to you from an international pharmacy, it can take weeks. And that delay could mean the difference between not being a candidate for a safe medication abortion.
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