Local officials and activists say women’s rights and health are at risk after SCOTUS decision | New

Almost as quickly as news arrived Friday morning of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, so too have promises from local political leaders about what they intend to do about it. .

“Abortion is safe and legal here in Massachusetts, thanks to the 2020 action by the Legislature to codify Roe into Massachusetts state law, which was done in anticipation of today’s decision “said a joint statement released by state officials. Jamie Belsito, Sally Kerans, Paul Tucker, Tom Walsh and State Senator Joan Lovely. “We will continue to guarantee women’s right to access health care. Our leaders in the House and Senate are working together to make access accessible to all and to protect doctors.”

That’s because many now expect women who need to terminate their pregnancies to start traveling to states that don’t ban abortion, as do investigators trying to enforce local laws. at their home.

“The focus should be on protecting providers, not cooperating with law enforcement investigations in states where women who will come here for treatment live,” said Kerans, of Danvers. “We don’t want to be a part of… any of that. We’ll be here to take care of people.”

Go back in time

Many who responded to the news on Friday characterized it as a reversal not only of rights, but also of time.

“Let’s go back to 1973, when abortions were performed in back rooms by non-medical staff,” said Lovely, who represents Essex’s 2nd District and lives in Salem. “Not every woman will be able to get in a car or a plane and go to another state that protects those rights. It’s just disgusting.”

Kerans, representing Essex’s 13th seat in the State House, said she has been active on what she described as ‘a woman’s right to choose for herself’, and has been ‘since I I’m in my twenties”.

“I’m in my 60s now,” she said. “I am encouraged to see Planned Parenthood and Reproductive Equity Now in Massachusetts. The entire community of women and pro-choice activists, millions of people will come together to care for women. But having to do it against the onslaught of a majority of a very conservative court is distressing.”

Belsito, representing Essex’s 4th District from her home in Topsfield, said she was born in 1973, the year Roe v Wade became the nation’s legal precedent on abortion access.

“It’s just shocking to think that something that seems as trivial as access to health care has been overturned,” she said. “I am very concerned about the continued influence of the religious right and the decisions that are being made in this country.”

Beverley Dunne, a longtime Peabody school board member and activist on issues such as access to health care, said the decision would also trigger a double standard when it comes to access to care.

“The effects on wealthy, judgmental people who have made a very private decision, a decision that only a woman can make, will be very different from the effects on the vast majority of women and families in this country,” Dunne said. “The rich and moralizing will always be able to make decisions with their doctors about whether the woman will carry a child or not.”

Officials worried about next steps

Kerans said she expects a change in language to come from the decision: “The term we’re going to start hearing is ‘forced pregnancy,'” she said. “It’s really obscene.”

Others, like Salem City Councilwoman Caroline Watson-Felt, said a dismantling of abortion rights will encourage a focus on other rights as well. She said that was especially the case for members of the LGBTQA+ community, of which Watson-Felt is the only publicly “out” board member.

“The legal validity of my own marriage and the right to safe contraception will be next,” Watson-Felt said. “The vote to repeal Roe vs. Wade will result in increased death and danger to millions of Americans with wombs – primarily those on low incomes – and we will see the ripple effects reach beyond the act of abortion.

“Americans’ freedoms and security were trampled on this week, by a select few conservatives, in the face of the counted opinions of a public majority,” Watson-Felt continued. “Elections are important; we are 50 years back today, but there are steps that can be taken to rectify and right this wrong, even if it may take years.”

This fight, said Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, must continue.

“There is no right more fundamental or more inalienable than the right to control one’s own body. Today, millions of Americans are less safe and less free to exercise that right because of this decision” , Driscoll said. “I am grateful that the Legislature stood up to pass the ROE Act to ensure that abortion rights will be protected and accessible in Massachusetts, but the fight for reproductive rights must continue – now more than ever.”