On June 24th, 2022 the United States Supreme Court issued one of the most controversial decisions in its two centuries of existence.
This past summer, having just finished my undergraduate degree, I was staying with family about forty-five minutes outside of Louisville, Kentucky while working as a volunteer for Kentucky’s Democratic Party in the lead-up to the 2022 midterm elections. I can remember exactly what I was doing and where I was on the 24th of June. It was a Friday morning, and I had the news on in the background while making breakfast when I heard that the United States Supreme Court had officially overturned Roe v. Wade.
Hearing that the U.S. Supreme Court had reversed nearly fifty years of precedent set by Roe v. Wade, revoking and denying women the right to bodily autonomy, struck me as a bold decision to hand down, especially on an election year but I honestly was not exactly surprised to hear the news. A little over a month prior, while I was heading into my last finals season as an undergrad, a leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court opinion dominated the news cycle. In this leaked draft, Justice Alito stated “we hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled”, explicitly overturning the Supreme Court’s previous ruling on the case in 1973.
Since the initial leak of Justice Alito’s draft opinion, the only question I had in mind was not whether the U.S. Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade but rather when an announcement of its’ reversal would be released. Turning over the issues to the states, the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision on women was solely dependent on their state of residents. For women living in the thirteen states with trigger laws, the effects of the overturning of Roe v. Wade were swift and severe.
Kentucky is one of thirteen states that possessed a trigger law that would automatically be put into place in the case of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. While I was unfamiliar with the specifics of Kentucky legislation regarding abortion and reproductive rights, as the home state of Senator Mitch McConnell, a dominant figure within the republican party who has served as majority leader in the U.S Senate, I had a feeling that the consequences of the Supreme Court decision within the state would critically undermine the rights of women across the state.
Kentucky’s abortion legislation allowed for the automatic outlawing of abortions without any further governmental action needed. Anyone performing abortion procedures or providing the medication necessary to induce an abortion would be charged with a Class D felony and could be sentenced to up half a decade in prison. One piece of Kentucky’s legislation I found to be particularly horrifying was the lack of exceptions for cases of rape and incest. The state’s only full-time clinic and Kentucky chapter of the ACLU immediately put out a statement that as a precautionary measure, EMW Women’s Surgical Center, located in downtown Louisville, would cease offering and providing services effective immediately. The Supreme Court’s decision was made even more severe in the state of Kentucky because of the fact that many of its neighbors shared similar abortion legislation either making it extremely difficult to find a clinic to perform an abortion or denying access altogether.
I knew immediately that I wanted to participate in any protest in the area against Kentucky’s draconian abortion trigger laws and within a few hours drove to Louisville to protest outside the federal courthouse, joining thousands of others in protest across the state. While marching, starting from the courthouse, I chatted with those around me in the middle of chanting and heard the same sentiments I had in my mind reflected back to me. Everyone I had talked to while at the protest shared my belief that the Supreme Court’s decision wasn’t a new development but rather an inevitability we were waiting to hear. Senate Candidate Charles Booker, serving as the Democratic Party’s challenger to incumbent republican senator Rand Paul, also spoke at the event, expressing his anger for women across the country in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Decision. What stuck out to me the most from Booker’s speech was his emphasis on the necessity to build a solid political infrastructure on the left. Booker stated that if we want to see policy become reality, we need to have the grassroots infrastructure to make it happen.
Having attended numerous protests for a wide range of issues and of varying sizes, I believe that they are tied together in that right to protest is vital for a healthy democracy. People need an avenue to express their beliefs and protests fulfill this need. Seeing hundreds of thousands of Americans unified in their protest against the overturning of Roe v. Wade shined a little bright light on an overall abysmal situation and left me with a slight bit of hope for the 2022 midterms.
Gerstein, Josh, and Alexander Ward. “Exclusive: Supreme Court Has Voted to Overturn Abortion Rights, Draft Opinion Shows.” POLITICO, POLITICO, 3 May 2022, https://www.politico.com/news/2022/05/02/supreme-court-abortion-draft-opinion-00029473.
Rickert, Aprile. “After Dobbs Decision, Nearly All Abortions Now Illegal in Kentucky.” Louisville Public Media, Louisville Public Media, 24 June 2022, https://www.lpm.org/news/2022-06-24/after-dobbs-decision-nearly-all-abortions-now-illegal-in-kentucky.
Rickert, Aprile. “Most Legal Abortion Access Would Disappear Automatically in Ky. If Roe Is Overturned.” Louisville Public Media, Louisville Public Media, 8 June 2022, https://www.lpm.org/news/2022-06-08/most-legal-abortion-access-would-disappear-automatically-in-ky-if-roe-is-overturned.
Totenberg, Nina, and Sarah McCammon. “Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade, Ending Right to Abortion Upheld for Decades.” NPR, NPR, 24 June 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/06/24/1102305878/supreme-court-abortion-roe-v-wade-decision-overturn.