US Senators Wyden, Merkley, denounce leaked decision
Oregon’s U.S. senators reacted with anger, sadness and resolution to the release of a draft U.S. Supreme Court decision that would overturn the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade that guaranteed abortion rights.
“Five unelected justices acting as a super legislature are rolling over Americans’ rights,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat, said in a statement. “We are in big trouble.”
He said his heart goes out to advocates and providers pushing for abortion rights and promised to fight.
Sen. Ron Wyden, also a Democrat, called the draft decision “a five-alarm fire.”
“If this is the final decision, the United States will be one of a handful of countries in the world moving backwards on women’s rights,” Wyden said. “The overturning of Roe would mark a devastating loss of constitutionally guaranteed bodily autonomy and privacy for more than half of America.”
On Monday, Politico released a draft Supreme Court opinion which said the court had voted to overturn the Roe case from 1972 and a subsequent case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, decided in 1992 which confirmed those rights. The draft opinion was written by Justice Samuel Alito Jr. and verified as authentic Tuesday by Chief Justice John Roberts.
“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” Alito wrote. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”
The report said his opinion was backed by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative majority, including three who were nominated by former President Donald Trump. The ruling is expected in a case over a Missouri law that would ban abortions after 15 weeks. The case was heard late last year and a decision has been expected by June.
U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, a Democrat, said the Supreme Court is overstepping its bounds.
“The government has no place in deciding for a woman what she chooses to do with her own body,” DeFazio said in a statement. “The decision to end a pregnancy, for whatever reason, is an intensely personal decision that can be only made by a woman and her spouse, companion, minister, physician, or whatever counsel she chooses, after considering all the available options and her unique circumstance.”
He added: “This news is devastating and overturning Roe would be a dramatic change in how the Supreme Court considers precedent. It will fuel our engagement and motivate us to protect this fundamental right. The facts have not changed — an overwhelming majority of Americans oppose overturning Roe v. Wade.”
U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon, predicted that the opinion would have “cataclysmic impacts for years.”
“The majority of the population supports reproductive freedom, but advocates have not been as engaged as the anti-abortion advocates,” Blumenauer said in a statement to the Capital Chronicle. “We all ought to be outraged, and this might be the spark that we need to change the tide. This has the potential to dramatically change the political landscape in the House and Senate.”
U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, a Democrat in Oregon’s 1st Congressional District, said such a Supreme Court decision would hurt poorer women — not the wealthy.
“Wealthy women will continue to be able to find abortion care, as they did pre-Roe, but it will be devastating for low-income women and desperate young people who simply do not want to bear a child,” Bonamici said in a statement. “I remember the days before Roe v. Wade, and I know that banning abortion does not make it go away; it makes it unsafe and dangerous.”
Bonamici co-sponsored the Women’s Health Protection Act, which has passed the U.S. House. It would “protect a person’s ability to determine whether to continue or end a pregnancy, and to protect a health care provider’s ability to provide abortion services.”
The act now rests with the U.S. Senate.
“I’m fighting for the Senate to take it up as soon as possible,” Bonamici said.
U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader said he joined with Bonamici to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act. “There has never been a more critical time to protect our pro-choice House majority. If Republicans take control of Congress, they will not stop until women’s reproductive rights are rolled back nationwide. We cannot and will not let that happen.”
“I have and always will fight to protect women’s rights to make their own health care decisions, free from interference of politicians,” Schrader added.
Republican Rep. Cliff Bentz was the only Oregon member of Congress who didn’t respond Tuesday to a request for comment.
Wyden, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said he’s geared up for a fight: “Ending this protected and established right — a right generations of women have now known and that the overwhelming majority of Americans support — would harm the health, safety, and lives of millions of women and families. This is going to be the fight of our lives, and we must use every tool at our disposal to stop this attack on constitutionally guaranteed rights.”
A spokesman for Gov. Kate Brown, who’s long supported abortion rights, said in a statement that she will “continue to fight to ensure that everyone in Oregon, regardless of income level, race, ZIP code or immigration status, has access to health care as a basic, fundamental right, including access to abortion.”
The right to a free abortion was put into law in Oregon with the 2017 Reproductive Health Equity Act, which Brown said California and other states are using as a model. In February, the Legislature approved $15 million for expanded abortion care with the expectation that the Supreme Court would overturn Roe. That money was supported by House Speaker Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, who called the Alito opinion “devastating.”
“In Oregon, Democratic leadership has been preparing for this dark day for years,” Rayfield wrote. “But we have more work ahead to protect abortion access, and I’m committed to finding bold solutions that break down the barriers and ensure abortion is available for all Oregonians.”
Blumenauer said Oregon must remain a “beacon” for those seeking reproductive health care.
“This decision makes the governor’s race even more important,” Blumenauer wrote. “It is critical that whoever is elected as the Democratic nominee must protect and defend reproductive health care. Independent and Republican candidates need to do more to show that they will continue to uphold Oregon’s long-history of defending reproductive freedom.”
Lynne Terry has more than 30 years of journalism experience, including a recent stint as editor of The Lund Report, a highly regarded health news site. She reported on health and food safety in her 18 years at The Oregonian, was a senior producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting and Paris correspondent for National Public Radio for nine years. OCC Reporter Alex Baumhardt contributed reporting for this story.