With Roe v. Wade Overturned, What's Next for Our Constitutional Rights?

Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

Young people holding signs in support of reproductive rights
Taajvi Singh, center, and others protest the Supreme Court's decision to overturn abortion rights at San Francisco's City Hall.  (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

The Supreme Court overturned abortion rights Friday, a bruising blow to our brittle democracy and the result of a decades-old scheme to erode constitutional protections.

The right to abortion was established nearly 50 years ago in Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that codified a woman’s right to choose an abortion. 

The repeal of the fundamental right hovered like a dense fog over the Bay Area as San Francisco Pride, the annual celebration of queerness, prepared to return for the first time since the pandemic stalled life around the globe. On the surface, Pride is just a rainbow-hued love affair. But Pride, like other Bay Area festivals, including Black Joy Parade and Carnaval, praises culture and diversity while also memorializing the human cost of acceptance in the United States. 

The steady deterioration of constitutional rights will bankrupt this country’s spirit. Welcome to post-Roe America. 

Across the Bay Area, people gathered to protest the decision. In Oakland, a protest that began at Frank Ogawa Plaza marched to Lake Merritt. In San Francisco, hundreds lined the streets, angrily chanting “Abort the Court” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho — the Supreme Court has got to go!” 

Sponsored

Susan Pedrick, who was riding the 38R bus on her way to city hall for a rally, told KQED that she got pregnant when she was 15. 

“I had an abortion the year after Roe v. Wade was passed,” said Pedrick, a 63-year-old San Franciscan. “I would have had a baby when I was 16. I didn’t have to do that because of Roe v. Wade.”

Girl holding sign that says, "If you're focused on killing 'innocent babies,' then ban the f*cking guns not my rights!"
Mysha Hofmann, 14, protests the Supreme Court's decision to overturn abortion protections established five decades ago by Roe v. Wade. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

The fencing and stages set up for Pride made it hard for people — there were crowds from multiple organized protests —  to congregate on the city hall grounds, where Taajvi Singh talked about how the Court’s decision could negatively impact generations of families.

“Because when a child is born, and a mom is not financially stable — like, an example, I’m 19, I’m not financially stable to keep a child,” Singh, who lives in South San Francisco, said. “I would not be able to provide them with a good life, a good future. That will make such a big difference. And that’s what deeply upsets me.” 

Outside the Ferry Building, Sonoma resident Gretchen Johnson-Gelb waited with her daughter, Lily Gelb, before the crowd began marching toward Market Street. 

“To really realize that we’re going backwards, like we have fewer rights than our parents — that’s pretty shocking, crazy and upsetting,” Gelb, 16, said. 

Her mother, a nurse practitioner, said she’s been fighting the anti-abortion movement since the 90s. 

Mother and daughter Gretchen Johnson-Gelb and Lily Gelb are part of three generations of women fighting for abortion rights. (Carlos Cabrera-Lomelí/KQED)

“My concern is we’re gonna get overloaded,” said Johnson-Gelb, referring to California’s positioning as an abortion sanctuary state. “There’s going to need to be a lot of help within the healthcare system, and other systems to make this possible — to be able to be a safe haven for other people from other states.” 

California, once again, finds itself as a refuge for people seeking abortions and reproductive care, as it was one of four states that legalized abortions before Roe v. Wade. California has some of the strongest abortion laws in the country, as KQED’s Carly Severn wrote in a detailed piece on what the ruling means for the state. As KQED’s April Dembosky reported in May, lawmakers are positioning California as an abortion sanctuary, preparing to welcome patients from around the country.  

California, Washington and Oregon formed a new alliance, pledging to protect abortion rights, KQED’s Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez reported Friday. In the afternoon, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 1666, legislation designed to shield providers, doctors and patients from civil lawsuits by states where abortion is illegal.

The ending of Roe comes from the Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, the 2018 Mississippi law that banned abortion procedures at 15 weeks of pregnancy. Lower courts blocked the enforcement, citing Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that upheld Roe and prevented states from banning abortions before a fetus could survive outside the uterus, commonly referred to as fetal viability. 

Young person holding up a sign in support of reproductive rights
Alixandra Ramos protests the Supreme Court's decision to overturn abortion rights at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

The basis for the court’s decision in Casey? That a woman’s right to choose an abortion before fetal viability was private and protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. Thirty years later, that protection has been revoked.  

Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote in the majority opinion.  “The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives.”

The Court’s decision will allow states to restrict or ban abortion procedures. According to the Washington Post, 13 states “will outlaw abortion within 30 days with ‘trigger bans’ designed to take effect as soon as Roe was overturned.” In total, more than half of the states in the country are expected to ban abortion, according to analysis by researchers at the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research organization. 

This will create significant financial strain and, potentially, legal consequences for women seeking abortions in other states or attempting to acquire pills that induce abortions. It will force many into parenthood, placing increased stress on the country’s frayed social safety nets.

It will jeopardize lives. 

But wait, there’s more. Justice Clarence Thomas, in a concurring opinion, wrote that the justices “should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents,” including Griswold v. Connecticut, Lawrence v. Texas, and Obergefell v. Hodges” — cases that, respectively, protect rights to contraception access, same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage. What’s after that, interracial marriage? 

The anti-abortion stance has been part of the Republican political playbook since the early 70s, when Richard Nixon assumed the position in an effort to win over Catholics and social conservatives. Under the guise of promoting family values, the party cultivated single-issue, “pro-life” voters. The last presidential administration’s appointment of three conservatives to the Supreme Court — Justices Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — telegraphed the end of Roe.

“I think we all saw it coming, but it was just shocking to wake up to that headline,” 37-year-old Oakland resident Jessica Garman, who joined the rallies in San Francisco, said. “It’s just so heartbreaking and it shouldn’t be. I can’t believe that we’ve decided to step back 50 years in time, basically.” 

Ixchel Martinez, a 23-year-old from Hayward, took a sick day so she and a friend could attend the protests in San Francisco, where a small group briefly blocked an entrance to Highway 101. 

“I decided this morning that if I don’t do this, nobody else is gonna do it for us,” she said. “At least we get to be here actually relating to other people. I feel like everybody here has the same stance as I do.”

Once the San Francisco protests merged with the Trans March, the tenor on the streets shifted. People danced to trumpets and drums at Turk and Taylor streets in the Tenderloin near where the Compton's Cafeteria riot occurred in 1966 — a riot sparked because of the violent harassment of drag queens and trans people by police.

Why go back in time?

According to a July survey by the Public Policy Institute of California, almost 80 percent of Californian adults opposed overturning Roe, including 59 percent of respondents who identified as Republican. Nationwide, a majority of adults — 61 percent — think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to a survey published by Pew Research Center on June 13.

Still, many Californians applauded the ruling.

“It’s a historic day for all Americans, those already born and those who are not yet born and for generations to come that we can look forward to the day where equality begins in the womb,” Wynette Sills, the director of Californians for Life, said in an interview with KQED’s Tyche Hendricks. 

When a reporter at a press conference asked Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, about Thomas’ concurring opinion, he demurred, saying that “life matters.” 

Not all lives.

Sponsored

KQED’s Adhiti Bandlamudi and Carlos Cabrera-Lomeli contributed to this report.