The Supreme Court ended the right to abortion in the United States on June 24, setting up state-level battles to either end, restrict or preserve abortion access.
The decision involved two legal moves. One, on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, upheld a Mississippi state law that banned most abortion after 15 weeks, a violation of the Roe v. Wade standard of 24 weeks. Justices voted 6-3, with the ideological blocs on the court voting together.
The others in the same case explicitly overturned Roe v. Wade, something that justices Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh said they wouldn’t do in their confirmation hearings. In that case, Chief Justice John Roberts left the majority, writing that the decision went further than necessary.
Washington state officials were quick to assure their constituents that government in the region would protect abortion access. Gov. Jay Inslee announced a commitment from the states of Washington, Oregon and California to preserve abortion access and other reproductive health care services.
“The law remains unchanged in Washington state, but the threat to patient access and privacy has never been more dangerous,” Inslee said in a statement, noting that Republican lawmakers have introduced roughly 40 bills in the past six years that would have increased restrictions on abortion access.
However, 13 states have “trigger laws” on the books that take effect immediately or “by quick state action” should Roe be overturned, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health policy research organization. Another 13 are “certain or likely to move quickly to ban abortion.”
Roe v. Wade overturned
That could mean more pressure on services in states that still protect abortion access and a heavy burden on pregnant people who need to travel to get an abortion, something that is especially likely to harm Black and Brown pregnant people.
Mayor Bruce Harrell announced that his administration would seek $250,000 in the supplemental budget proposal to expand reproductive health care access through the Northwest Abortion Access Fund.
He also declared that the Seattle Police Department (SPD) would not enforce laws of other states “that are inconsistent with Washington laws and values.”
The end of a federally assured right to abortion does not mean the end of fights over the topic. State-based initiatives or new federal legislation prohibiting, restricting or protecting the procedure are also possible.
Furthermore, in a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the court should “reconsider” other rulings including Griswold v. Connecticut, Obergefell v. Hodges and Lawrence v. Texas, which protected the right for married couples to use contraception, to same-sex marriage and to same-sex relationships, respectively.
Uniform of Pride
Seattle Pride’s Executive Board and SPD leadership engaged in a war of words over Seattle Pride’s prohibition of police insignia, uniforms or other “police propaganda to walk in any parade contingency.”
In its letter, Seattle Pride explained that origins of the celebration of the LGBTQ+ community came out of a riot against police brutality at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Lower Manhattan.
The Executive Board’s decision “has been met with sadness by SPD’s more than 100 LGBTQIA+ officers, commanders, and civilians,” Interim Chief Adrian Diaz wrote, going on to quote law enforcement officers who disagree with Seattle Pride’s decision. While police will still be at the event “working for a hate-free experience for all gathered,” SPD employees will not march, he wrote.
Diaz posted the letter to Twitter and the SPD Blotter, which Seattle Pride said “put a spotlight” on community members and invited targeted threats and violence. Police could still participate in the event while wearing plainclothes, the response message repeated.
The LGBTQ+ community has become the focus of right-wing hate groups that have inundated community members and allies during Pride Month, reported NBC News’ Ben Collins and Doha Madani.
House Our Neighbors! (HON), a project of the Real Change Advocacy Department, submitted more than 29,500 signatures for its social housing initiative on June 22. If the signatures are approved, Seattle voters could weigh in on social housing on their November ballots.
Initiative 135 would create a Seattle Social Housing Developer (SSHD). The SSHD would then create, own and upkeep housing projects rather than go through traditional, private-market developers. The housing would be publicly owned in perpetuity and renters would have a voice in governance.
On its website, HON refers to social housing as “the missing piece to our housing strategy” while maintaining that existing affordable housing models fill a role and need “all the resources they can get.” The initiative does not include a funding mechanism to build social housing, instead focusing on the creation of the SSHD and seeking funding sources later.
That became an early point of contention with the Housing Development Consortium (HDC), an affordable housing advocacy organization. HDC released a statement on April 27 raising concerns that I-135 “distracts funds and energy away from what our community should be focusing on — scaling up affordable housing for low-income people.”
Read more of the June 29-July 5, 2022 issue.