Abortion rights at risk as Supreme Court decides whether to overturn Roe v. Wade


Katherine Camarata

Protesters gather every day in front of Kittitas County Courthouse in light of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court draft opinion.

With contributions from Emily LaFave

“Abortion is a human right” and “If the government thinks parenthood can be forced why am I owed $25,000 in unpaid child support” were phrases decorating signs held by protestors outside the courthouse every day since a leaked Supreme Court document showed that the pivotal case regarding reproductive rights, Roe v. Wade, may be overturned. 

According to the document released by Politico, the initial draft majority opinion detailing the possible overturning was written by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in February. 

The six conservative majority have signaled their willingness to overturn Roe v. Wade, while the three liberal justices opposed overturning Roe v. Wade, according to Politico. The opinion is subject to change as justices may change their minds in later drafts.

The leaked document sparked concern among Ellensburg residents who decided to gather in solidarity and protest on May 4, the day after it leaked.

According to second year student in primate behavior Elizabeth DeBruyn, the organizers of the Womens’ March asked people to go to their city centers to protest. They invited people over to make signs and formed the first Ellensburg demonstration surrounding the issue.

It’s about telling the community that people care about them. I want the community to know they’re not alone in going through this,” DeBruyn said.

DeBruyn was joined by first year graduate student in primate studies, Mia Sarkisian, who said she got involved because she personally knows people who have benefitted from abortion. 

“A lot of people see pro-choice as pro-abortion, and there’s a lot of people that don’t like abortions but understand that it’s their choice to have one,” Sarkisian said. “I’m also very pro-LGBT rights and I understand that pro-choice is not only beneficial for ciswomen, but also for transpeople and gender non-conforming people.”

According to Sarkisian, seeing other community members support reproductive rights made her feel better.

“I had this idea that Ellensburg is more conservative,” Sarkisian said. “It was really important to see the town rally together to know there is a lot of pro-choice support.”

Widespread Perspectives

According to the Pew Resarch center, 61% of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances, while 37% believe abortions should be illegal in all or most circumstances. This greatly depends on each situation and factors such as saving the life of the mother, when and how the abortion may be completed and the quality of life of the child who may be affected by situations like developmental disabilities. 

Abortions can be minimally invasive and involve taking medication under the supervision of a healthcare provider. In December of 2021, the FDA permanently removed the barrier for women to have abortion pills mailed to them, according to NPR. 

Ruthi Erdman, senior lecturer in English and women’s gender and sexuality studies, said overturning Roe v. Wade, “reverses decades of national policy, destroying freedoms and protections that women … have relied upon for almost 50 years. It undermines women’s autonomy and puts women’s health and lives at risk.” 

Professor of philosophy and religious studies Cynthia Coe weighed in on the issue with concerns of potential ramifications.

Within a matter of weeks or months, I think there are 13 states that have trigger laws, which mean immediately if Roe v. Wade is overturned, they would immediately ban abortions, and so the content of those trigger laws differs state to state,” Coe said. “So you’d have immediately 13 states where abortion becomes significantly less accessible than it already is.”  

Coe and Erdman both emphasized the importance of expressing outrage and dissent against the overturning.

“We must make our voices heard now,” Erdman said. “This won’t stop abortion or save fetuses. It will only harm or kill young women. How pro-life is that? If we can’t persuade the Supreme Court, we can at least influence state legislators … We must vote for legislators who understand that access to safe abortions is vital.” 

Roe v. Wade Explained

In 1970, a woman under the name Jane Roe sued her local district attorney Henry Wade of Dallas County for infringing on her reproductive rights, according to ConstitutionCenter.org. 

“Roe alleged that the state laws were unconstitutionally vague and abridged her right of personal privacy, protected by the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments,” according to Oyez.org, a law project from Cornell. 

When Roe v. Wade was ruled on in 1973, the court ruled seven in favor to two opposing, citing  “zones of privacy” as a reason, according to ConstitutionCenter.org. The states can only restrict abortions if a “compelling state interest” exists, according to ConstitutionCenter.org.  

Currently, as a federal statute every state has to provide access to abortions, according to Planned Parenthood

However that doesn’t mean that states have to be accommodating, and they still have the right to close or limit hours of abortion clinics. States such as Washington have signaled their support for abortion rights via legislation, while states such as Texas signaled strong opposition.

Gov. Jay Inslee said, “Washington state was a pro-choice state, Washington state is a pro-choice state, and we are going to fight like hell to keep Washington a pro-choice state,” according to KUOW. 

According to the Texas Tribune, Texas passed one of the nation’s strictest abortion bans, banning any abortion after six weeks. 

While the vote is important to define where each senator stands on the matter, due to an even 50-50 split in the senate, any legislation that passes could be filibustered. This means that in order to pass, the bill would need to cross the 60 vote threshold, an unlikely outcome due to the political nature of the bill, according to ballotpedia

Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, spoke in a floor speech on the matter. 

“We will vote to protect a woman’s right to choose and every American is going to see which side every senator stands [on],” Schumer said, according to NPR.