Closing The Gap

Planned Parenthood CEO: ‘All of our freedoms are on the line’ after Supreme Court overturn of Roe v. Wade

People attending the Bans Off Abortion rally held at Centennial Park in Santa Ana on Saturday, May 14, 2022, after a leaked draft opinion showed the Supreme Court was poised to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Mark Rightmire | MediaNews Group/Orange County Register Via Getty Images | MediaNews Group | Getty Images

On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade, establishing that Americans no longer have a constitutional right to abortion and eliminating nearly 50 years of federal protections for the procedure.

The case that triggered the 5 to 4 decision to overturn Roe, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, centered on a Mississippi law that would ban almost all abortions after 15 weeks. Individual states are now able to restrict when and how women can terminate their pregnancies.

The court's decision will have an immediate impact on the landscape of abortion access in the U.S.: Nearly half the states are expected to outlaw or severely restrict abortion as a result, CNBC reports. Missouri became the first state to do so in the hours following the decision.

Planned Parenthood president and CEO Alexis McGill Johnson called the ruling "horrific" in a statement, noting that marginalized communities, including people with disabilities, those living in rural areas and low-income families will experience the most dangerous consequences. 

"Knowing this moment would come does not make it any less devastating," McGill Johnson said, referring to the circulation of a leaked draft opinion in May. "The Supreme Court has now officially given politicians permission to control what we do with our bodies, deciding that we can no longer be trusted to determine the course for our own lives." 

Planned Parenthood is the leading provider of sexual and reproductive health care in the U.S., including elective abortion care. It oversees more than 600 health centers throughout the country and provides about 37% of abortion services to thousands of patients each year, the organization reports.

McGill Johnson also warned that other reversals on federal protections for reproductive services and relationships could follow. "Make no mistake: if they can take away the right to abortion, a right we've held for nearly 50 years, they won't stop here. All of our freedoms are on the line," she said. 

Justice Clarence Thomas, in a concurring opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, wrote that the court should "reconsider" its past rulings that protect access to contraceptives, same-sex relationships, and same-sex marriage.

Associate Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the majority opinion, called the 1973 Roe ruling "egregiously wrong" from the start. "It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people's elected representatives," he added. 

Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote the dissenting opinion alongside the court's two other liberal justices, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, argued that federal protections for abortion have been "critical" in giving women control of their bodies and their lives. 

"After today, young women will come of age with fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers had," Breyer wrote. "The majority accomplishes that result without so much as considering how women have relied on the right to choose or what it means to take that right away."

The impact of overturning Roe extends far beyond whether Americans will be able to access legal abortions, McGill Johnson told CNBC Make It in early June — it will set women back decades from achieving full equality in their lives and careers. 

"It's not just a denied right to abortion. The case is fundamentally about equality," she said. "We can't we can't close the inequality gap between men and women if we can't control our own bodies." 

At work, for example, "if business leaders don't trust women to make decisions about their own bodies, what else are you not going to trust us with?" she said. "Are you not going to put me in front of your biggest client? Are you not going to trust the decision I make as a CEO? These are the things that we are actually saying, without saying them, when we deny people the right to make decisions about their own bodies." 

Check out:

How the CEO of Planned Parenthood is preparing for a future without Roe v. Wade: 'We've been planning for this moment for years'

More U.S. companies could introduce abortion benefits soon—here's what to know

Janet Yellen: Overturning Roe v. Wade would be 'very damaging' to the economy, women

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