Michigan Legislative Black Caucus kept it a buck in its response to the Supreme Court’s conservative majority overturning the constitutional right to abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women Health Organization.
“This is some bullshit,” read the statement’s first line.
The caucus went further to say it would do everything to support Black and Brown women throughout the state in accessing safe abortion services regardless of location or income.
“Not only will we continue to combat the challenges of Black maternal mortality and health disparities in our communities, but we are committed to our pursuit of gender, racial, and economic justice, including reproductive health care and rights for all, and we look forward to working with any individual or group who will help us achieve this goal,” continued the statement.
Roe was the floor for reproductive rights and freedom
While Michigan is one of many states where abortion remains legal, it is also one of the states with a pre-Roe abortion ban still on the books. Roe provided basic protection against state interference with the fundamental right to abortion. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has said she would fight to prevent the 91-year-old law from being enforced.
Michigan state Sen. Erika Geiss said her state is a “clear example” of how Roe was the floor for protecting individual bodily autonomy.
“Michigan is a clear example of how Roe was the floor, not the ceiling, providing basic protections for people in our state against extremist legislation from politicians long-gone,” Geiss said in a statement. “Roe safeguarded Michiganders against a dangerous 1931 law that makes providing an abortion in the state a felony unless the life of the pregnant person is at risk.”
Geiss is a reproductive leader within the State Innovative Exchange. The organization’s Reproductive Freedom Leadership Council supports legislators like Geiss who are fighting to protect and, where possible, expand reproductive rights and freedom.
The importance of state elected officials comes into focus
With SCOTUS deciding that abortion is something to be left to the states, the role of state elected officials, particularly legislators, comes into focus. In the coming days and weeks, abortion is expected to be banned or severely restricted in many states. Governors can veto bills prohibiting or severely restricting abortion, but other state officials are equally important.
Mississippi state Rep. Christopher Bell called the SCOTUS decision an “ominous sign” of what’s to come.
“So long as far-right legislators dictate national policy through the Supreme Court, there is no limit to the horrors that will unfold,” Bell said in a statement. “My constituents in Jackson, the people of Mississippi, and Americans nationwide deserve better, and now more than ever, we must hold our elected officials accountable.”
Reflecting on his home state’s role in setting the current chain of events into motion, Bell said pre-viability abortion bans like the one passed by Mississippi were always focused on undermining the right to bodily autonomy.
“Mississippi anti-abortion legislators knew that their 15-week abortion ban was a flagrant violation of human rights and the Constitution when they passed it four years ago, and that was the point,” Bell continued. “Their explicit goal was to appeal to the Supreme Court. By dismantling all federal abortion protections and opening the door for abortion bans in half the states in the country, the Supreme Court undermines our very humanity.”
“Safe” states must act in the wake of the SCOTUS abortion decision
Even states that are considered “safe” for abortion seekers could act to further protect and support the fundamental right. Jennifer Driver, State Innovation Exchange’s senior director of reproductive rights, further explained the importance of taking affirmative action in the wake of the SCOTUS abortion decision in Dobbs.
“Pro-abortion state legislators are prepared for this moment,” she said in a statement. “We are currently working with state lawmakers on a pledge to protect, defend, and expand access to abortion in their states. There is a wide range of policies state lawmakers can put into place, including codifying the right to abortion in state law, protecting people seeking abortions from being sued or criminalized, authorizing Medicaid funds to be used towards abortions, and much more.”
Also, Driver called on state legislators who claim to care about freedom and fundamental human rights to push for these protections. She said the health and rights of millions depend on taking action now.
“States that enact restrictions on abortion access are not interested in supporting families, but rather in controlling people’s reproductive lives – especially Black women and other people of color,” she continued. “We must work differently to build power and reclaim government by, for, and with the people to defeat this extremist, reactionary, anti-progress movement. We at the State Innovation Exchange are committed to bringing together lawmakers at the state level in support of abortion access, and in this five-alarm fire moment, we can’t sit back.”
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