Reproductive rights protests
On May 2, a 98-page draft majority opinion revealing the Supreme Court voted in favor of overturning Roe v Wade was leaked by a source close to the court. In this document, Roe v Wade, a Supreme court’s decision from 1973 that guarantees a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy, is referred to as “exceptionally weak” and “egregiously wrong” and abortion is considered a right that is not “deeply rooted in history” and a “rancorous national controversy” that the Supreme Court is unable to protect. The draft majority opinion is in relation to Dobbs v Jackson, which is a case involving the state of Mississippi.
If adopted, the draft majority opinion would rule in favor of Mississippi’s law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and would revoke the federal constitutional right to have an abortion, thus allowing states to ultimately determine the extent of its legality. 22 states already have laws in place that limit the ability to have an abortion, many have pre-Roe bans on abortion which are still codified, and some, like Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Alabama have near-total bans already in effect. Without a federal protection like Roe v Wade in place, it is likely that states will continue to restrict access to abortion, if not make abortion illegal entirely, which would mark a complete shift in the movement for reproductive rights, and pose a threat to the health and bodily autonomy of anyone with a uterus.
Because of the implications overturning Roe v Wade would have, there has been massive public outrage and protests across the country aiming to sway the court’s decision, as 70% of the United States’ population supports the right to have an abortion and many view the decision as undemocratic and unrepresentative of the will of the people. Protests in Anchorage include a May 2nd rally led by Planned Parenthood, and a Mother’s Day rally organized by the Party for Socialism and Liberation and Stand-Up Alaska, each of which turned out hundreds of people.
At the Mother’s Day rally, a large crowd congregated in Town Square Park as speakers emphasized the interconnected nature of abortion access, women’s rights, and numerous other issues that affect Alaska in particular, as well as the rest of the country. One of the issues emphasized was the danger of potential abortion access restrictions in Alaska, which consistently records the highest rate of sexual assault in the United States and where about 50% of women report being victims of sexual violence, intimate partner violence, or both.
One speaker touched on the risk overturning Roe v Wade would pose not just to women but to trans and gender non-conforming people who have already been under attack by a patriarchal capitalist system which thrives on oppression and bigotry. This capitalist system, the speaker argued, has continually been protected by the Supreme Court of the United States, which has upheld the legal precedent for things like slavery, segregation, and a ban on marriage equality in the past. In addition to these points of emphasis, among the demands offered by the Party for Socialism and Liberation and Stand-Up Alaska was that congress moves to codify Roe v Wade.
Although pro-choice Democrats have a majority in the house and senate, as well as control of the presidency, the filibuster rule which applies in the senate requires 60 votes to pass a measure that does not secure the consent of all 100 senators upon the first vote. This means that even with 50 Democratic votes to codify Roe v Wade and potential “yes” votes from pro-choice Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, such a measure would almost certainly fail.
While the Supreme Court’s draft opinion is not final and Roe v Wade remains in place, there is a growing concern that a body of 9 unelected judges has the power to overturn a 50-year legal precedent upholding the federal right to have an abortion, and in doing so, may jeopardize the rights of over 160 million women in the United States. As the Dobbs v Jackson case continues, it is possible that the court’s alignment on upholding Roe v Wade may change, and if it does, it will certainly be due to the influence of mass public upheaval - if it doesn’t - it will be in spite of the majority of Americans who support the right to have an abortion and have voted pro-choice representatives into office accordingly.