On the Overturning of Roe v. Wade
Dear Western Community,
Like many of you, I was deeply distressed to wake up this morning and see that the Supreme Court had overturned Roe v. Wade.
Over the past 49 years since that landmark decision, a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion before viability has become embedded in the fabric of our society. It has become a right that affects the lives of people of all genders in profound ways, from their health to their household finances, career opportunities to the structure of family life. Reversing this right will undermine the public’s faith in the stability and independence of our legal institutions. More importantly, it will have a devastating effect on the expectations and the lives of millions of women, questioning whether they should enjoy the same fundamental freedom that men have in determining what happens with respect to their own bodies.
The cause for alarm goes far beyond abortion. Two of the main justifications behind the Supreme Court opinion are that rights not explicitly enumerated in the Constitution are protected only if they are “deeply rooted” in American history, and that debates about these matters should play out in the states. The problem with this reasoning is that it can also be applied to restrict access to contraception and void federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriage, among others. None of these rights are explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, and all of them were illegal in several states before the Supreme Court recognized them as Constitutionally protected rights. Leaving these matters to individual states and the political process means that millions of Americans will and can be denied fundamental rights that are implicit in the Constitution even if they are not explicit in it.
While “trigger laws” banning abortions in 13 states are set to go into effect as a result of this ruling, Washington is among the states where a woman’s right to choose will continue to be upheld. However, that will also make it attractive for women who live in bordering states, and an interstate fight over abortion access across state lines is already underway. And, just knowing that many of our students, faculty, and staff come from or have family and friends living in states where trigger laws are set to take effect is disturbing to many of us. Please know that mental health resources are available to students through the Counseling and Wellness Center at cwc.wwu.edu, and staff and faculty may reach out to the Employee Assistance Program at hr.wwu.edu/employee-assistance-program.
While today may be the end of Roe, it is not the end of the national debate about reproductive freedom. Earlier today, the governors of California, Oregon and Washington issued a Multi-State Commitment in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to defend access to reproductive health care, including abortion and contraceptives. Let us also remember that universities have a great responsibility to prepare engaged and informed citizens. It is impossible to imagine a healthy, sustainable, just, and peaceful world without the wisdom and leadership of women, and the rights and dignity of all people protected. Western will continue working toward that vision of justice, inclusion, and autonomy, and is here to support your contribution to it as well.