‘I am appalled’: State leaders react as Supreme Court weighs challenge to abortion laws
Washington state leaders weighed in this week as the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could have sweeping consequences for abortion rights in dozens of states.
Roe v. Wade is widely acknowledged as the case that legalized abortion across the United States, followed by a subsequent 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which affirmed the decision.
On Wednesday, justices took up a challenge to Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with the court’s conservative majority signaling their support for overturning nearly five decades of precedent set by the Roe case.
The Supreme Court isn’t expected to issue its ruling until June 2022. If it does vote to uphold the Mississippi abortion ban, it could open the door for similar laws in over half of all states, according to one estimate from the Guttmacher Institute.
In Washington, local leaders expressed their alarm over that possibility Wednesday.
“Because of Roe and Casey, abortions are safe and are available,” Sen. Maria Cantwell said in a speech delivered on the Senate floor. “Women are in control of their bodies, families can plan. These are important issues for every woman in America. These are their choices. This decision, a very difficult decision, can be theirs and theirs alone. And that is why it is a matter of choice.”
“Today abortion rights are hanging in the balance at the Supreme Court, and the threat to Roe is very real. Why? Because for decades, extreme Republicans have attacked abortion rights from every angle and are continuing their non-stop efforts to build a country where patients are forced to remain pregnant and carry their pregnancies to term against their will,” Sen. Patty Murray said in a speech of her own. “But I want to make clear: That is absolutely unacceptable.”
In the event Roe and Casey do get overturned, state Senator Annette Cleveland — who chairs the Senate’s health committee — believes Washington’s own abortion protections will likely remain in place.
“As a woman and as a lifelong advocate for reproductive choice, I am appalled to hear justices indicate an openness to reversing longstanding federal laws that protect a person’s right to choose,” she detailed in a written statement. “As a Washingtonian, however, I am reassured by the knowledge that we have adopted laws at the state level that proactively and explicitly protect reproductive rights and the right to an abortion even if recent Supreme Court appointees should decide to upend settled law.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.