Seattle community members protested in favor of abortion rights the week that a draft Supreme Court opinion leaked, suggesting that the court intends to overrule Roe v. Wade.
Late Monday night, May 2, Politico reported that a majority of five justices on the U. S. Supreme Court intend to overrule the landmark 1973 Roe decision, which legalized abortions across the country. The unprecedented leaked decision, authored by Justice Samuel Alito, would have sweeping ramifications for federal jurisprudence, undermining the implied right to privacy, which could impact other decisions such as gay marriage, the decriminalization of gay sex and the right to contraceptives.
While the decision is not final, it is widely expected to be issued this summer. An ABC/Washington Post poll released soon after the document leaked showed that a majority of Americans oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, with 54 percent opposed and 28 percent in favor of overturning the abortion rights decision.
E.N. West, the co-director of Surge Reproductive Justice, said that the upcoming Supreme Court decision will create a “toxic environment” for people with uteruses, making it harder for people to access reproductive care without stigma, judgment or worse consequences.
West said that the decision will have a “huge impact on low-income people.”
“Because race and class are inextricably tied, that includes folks of color, especially by Black, Latinx, and indigenous populations,” they said.
West said the decision will directly affect not just cis women but also trans and gender expansive people across the spectrum. “There’s already so many other barriers for trans people in accessing health care, never mind adding this on top of it,” they said.
Seattle politicians and residents protested the dramatic decision, holding multiple protests across the city.
On the afternoon of May 3, local Democrats, including Gov. Jay Inslee and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, gathered in Kerry Park with a few hundred supporters. With a view of downtown Seattle in the background, the elected officials denounced the decision and assured that Washington state would maintain abortion rights access.
According to the South Seattle Emerald, Inslee said, “Washington state is a pro-choice state, and we are going to fight like hell to keep Washington a pro-choice state.”
Jayapal added that marginalized communities would pay the steepest price, explaining that abortions would continue, just more dangerously, as people seeking abortions would lack safe and legal options.
Later that evening, socialists organized a rally at Westlake Park to mobilize opposition to the draft Supreme Court decision. A few thousand Seattleites showed up to the rally and march, holding both homemade and red Socialist Alternative-made signs with slogans such as “fight back to defend abortion” and “you can’t have capitalism without sexism.”
Maddy Olson, a grocery worker, union member, and part of the Socialist Alternative party, spoke at the rally about how access to an abortion is a labor issue.
“Not having this option to have an abortion is going to force hundreds of thousands of women out of the workforce involuntarily, because it’s going to make them financially dependent on their partners and increasing rates of domestic abuse,” Olson said.
“Without the ability to choose when and whether to have kids, women workers are not going to have real job security.”
Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who is also a member of Socialist Alternative, closed out a rally calling on the formation of a broad, militant movement to defend abortion rights.
“We need to build on tonight with an escalating of mass rallies and marches, non-violent civil disobedience, student walkouts and workers carrying out work stoppages and strike actions,” Sawant said.
Sawant criticized the response by Democrats such as Jayapal, saying that they had little plan other than to tell people to vote for them in the midterm elections.
“Not one [Democrat] offered any strategy to defeat this historical attack,” Sawant said.
“What did they say? Everybody, from Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal to State Senator Rebecca Saldaña, had pretty much the same thing to say: Vote blue in November, they say. Vote blue.”
Sawant also criticized Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s proclamation that abortion rights are safe in Washington as showing a lack of solidarity.
“Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson informed the crowd, quote, ‘In Washington state, these rights are not in jeopardy,’ end quote,” she said. “This is outrageous. This is an utter lack of solidarity with millions of women and LGBTQ people around the country.”
Sawant introduced a resolution on May 10 in defence of abortion rights.
West shared some similar criticisms about Democratic politicians, saying that they failed to produce a convincing vision for the country — unlike rightwing Republicans, who successfully convinced people to vote against their interests for decades.
“The Democrats have not done a great job of articulating a compelling vision of what America could be or should be and articulating that to communities who could vote in support of their own interests,” they said.
West also said that progressive, well-funded and white-led organizations should follow the lead of reproductive justice organizations, particularly those in the American South that have been on the front lines of fighting against rightwing attacks on abortion rights.
More protests are planned in the coming weeks to protest the upcoming Supreme Court decision. Planned Parenthood called a national day of action on May 14. Sawant’s office is planning to join the day of action and has also called on students and workers to walkout or go on strike in solidarity on May 13.
On May 5, students at the University of Washington organized their own protest, walking out at noon in support of reproductive rights. Hundreds gathered at Red Square in the rain, then marched to the northern edge of the Seattle campus.
“Free, safe, legal, on demand, painless, universal reproductive health care is not a privilege — it’s a right!” said Katie, a student and member of the organization Students for a Democratic Society.
“Whose body? My body! Whose choice? My choice!” chanted the crowd.
Read more of the May 11-17, 2022 issue.