life after roe

Now What?

A pro-choice protester outside of the Supreme Court the day after the leak. Photo: Stephen Voss/Redux

On Monday night, a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion revealed what many have feared for months: The Court’s conservative majority has privately voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to documents obtained by Politico. While the official ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — the case concerning a 15-week ban out of Mississippi that poses a direct threat to Roe — isn’t expected until June, conservative justices have not been shy about their eagerness to gut abortion rights. Still, even if the end of Roe, which has for decades guaranteed the right to abortion until fetal viability, isn’t a surprise, that doesn’t mean we were prepared for the news. The best estimates indicate that, if the ruling is overturned, abortion will immediately become inaccessible in at least 26 states, creating a health-care disaster of proportions that are hard to overstate.

As a staff, we discussed our reactions to the news as well as our questions, fears, and anger about the future.

Erica Schwiegershausen, senior news editor: To start us off, how did everyone react last night when you saw the news?

Claire Lampen, news writer: I was surprised because I didn’t expect to see the opinion so early, but sad in a way that I can’t articulate yet. I also felt nauseated — and that hasn’t lifted.

Lindsay Peoples, editor-in-chief: I immediately thought about vulnerable and marginalized communities because abortions will still happen, but I think they will be a lot less safe, especially for women of color.

Rebecca Traister, writer at large: I wanted there to be sirens blaring letting people who have appointments today know that this was a draft opinion and that abortion is still legal and they can still get the care they need. I was so horrified by the immediate implications on so many people who would be scared and confused.

Irin Carmon, senior correspondent: Physically, I felt dizzy. You can know something is happening for so long, but to see it in black-and-white remains shocking. There’s always some hope that things could go better than you know they will.

RT: Like Irin, I have felt like I’ve known this was going to happen for years. I can trace other visceral moments of realization — from Election Night 2016, to Kennedy retiring, to the night RBG died, to Amy Coney Barrett being confirmed — where I felt physical manifestations of this understanding, but what was odd last night was that even with that kind of theoretical mental and intellectual preparedness, my body behaved weirdly. I was shaking all over, my teeth were chattering, and I was enormously cold for two straight hours.

Jordan Larson, features editor: I just immediately started sobbing. I knew this was coming but felt so unprepared for the news — not that having two more months to emotionally prepare would have made any difference, but I was so struck by how intellectually preparing doesn’t do anything.

Devon Sherer: senior editor, Snapchat: The fact that the leak coincided with the Met Gala really added to the overall feeling of dread and the lack of anyone in power willing to do anything. I doom-scrolled late into the night.

JL: Yeah, that was particularly crazy-making, scrolling through Twitter and seeing pictures of gala outfits interspersed with panicky tweets.

Andrea González-Ramírez, senior writer: I felt shock, anger, grief, and numbness, all within a few hours. My best friend of 15 years is defending her doctoral dissertation as we speak. I keep thinking that even though neither of us has had an abortion, everything we’ve been able to accomplish — our biggest, wildest dreams — has been because we knew we could choose if and when to parent. To see that choice will likely disappear for even more people across this country — because Roe has never been a reality for everyone — I don’t know. I’ve been covering abortion on and off for six years, so I knew this is where we were headed. But I don’t think I was fully prepared to see it finally happen.

RT: I think the fact that it feels like the threat was so invisible and silent in my daily life until more recently is a huge part of how we got here, and malpractice on the part of those in leadership and media over decades in which abortion access was being eroded in poor and vulnerable communities. That it could come as such a shock to voters and to politicians and to the news media is exactly how we got here. Because over the decades I’ve been writing about this, no one has wanted to have a real conversation about how this has been the plan of the right wing — via the slow and patient takeover of states, and the courts creating a pipeline of conservative justices — over decades. But those who yelled about it were called hysterics, literally by Ben Sasse during the Kavanaugh confirmation and implicitly by many of our colleagues in the media, while the Democratic Party spent a good deal of my 20s and 30s treating abortion as an unbridgeable cultural divide rather than a core issue of economic stability, family flourishing, and health-care access.

Catherine Thompson, senior editor: I’m worried about how this draft opinion will fuel misinformation about what abortion care remains available, and I’m wondering whether that was part of the motivation behind the leak.

AGR: Yeah, as Rebecca said, it’s crucial people know that abortion is still legal. Providers will keep offering care, and advocates will continue to offer support until the last possible moment.

I will also say I’ve found myself resentful of most of the discourse: “How could this happen?,” “RBG should have retired earlier,” “Elections have consequences,” “Who leaked this?,” “It’s going to hurt the Court,” etc. None of that hand-wringing really matters now. What we should be doing is centering those people who need care and talking about how to continue to safely allow them to obtain an abortion post-Roe because abortions are not stopping just because they’ll be illegal in large swaths of the country.

RT: And to that end, they have already been all but illegal in large swaths of the country, and there are so many people on the ground who’ve been helping people get the care they need over decades. It’s also important not to misstate the current landscape. This is not the same thing as going back to the ’70s: Medication abortions are now a possibility, so the physical dangers, while real, are going to look very different than they did decades ago. Meanwhile, a whole new arena of peril and injustice has been opened by the contemporary willingness to criminalize abortion seekers and their providers and their networks of support.

IC: I do think there’s a danger in saying, as some people do, “Well, Roe already hasn’t existed in large parts of the country.” Because it can always get worse — and it will. The Texans who have been going to Oklahoma and Louisiana won’t be able to. In Texas, a staggering number of people were able to scramble to get abortions before six weeks in their state. They shouldn’t have had to, but the overall decline was much lower than expected. But now all abortions will be illegal in Texas. It can get worse.

RT: It can absolutely get worse, and the notion that privileged people and people in blue states will not see circumstances change is wildly misleading and — I’m afraid — anesthetizing.

JL: Going back to the leak, it’s interesting to me how many different theories there are. A lot of people whose opinions I trust think it was leaked from the right to prevent anyone in the majority from softening their stance, but there are plenty of people who think it was leaked from someone on the dissenting side as a warning. I truly have no idea, but I wonder if part of our desire to see it as a warning is because we want to know that someone in a position of power saw this as enough of an emergency to actually break some norms over.

CT: Absolutely. We want to think that somewhere there’s an adult in the room trying to derail this decision before it happens. But I think the past five years have taught us there are no adults in the room.

ES: To that point, how are people feeling right now? I’m scared to ask, but is there room for hope?

AGR: Honestly, I think we should believe the right when they say they won’t stop until there’s no legal abortion anywhere in the U.S. That’s what they’ve been working toward, and creating an infrastructure for, over the past 50 years. I have no hope in our institutions, but I have hope in the people who’ve been doing this work. And I say that knowing it shouldn’t fall on their shoulders to do all this labor at great risk and cost.

CL: I am worried about the future of abortion funds as a concept considering the popularity of the vigilante enforcement mechanism and red states like Missouri already thinking about ways to legislate outside their borders. I don’t want to say there’s no hope, but the idea of one state expanding its restrictions into a neighboring state is truly frightening.

Katja Vujić, social editor: I think what gives me hope is the massive distance between what the government is doing and what the vast majority of people in this country want and believe.

IC: I have hope that medication abortion by mail will help a lot of people, if not everyone.

CT: I’m heartened that I’m already seeing a lot of conversations around the draft decision center what people can do to organize: coordinating protests, donating to local abortion funds, supporting community networks that will mobilize to provide care after the Supreme Court issues its ruling, likely at legal risk to themselves. It’s been too late for a political solution for a while now.

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