In front of more than 100 people on Tuesday, Cynthia Hamilton, Women’s March and Indivisible Spokane organizer, told the story of her abortion. After having two children, Hamilton asked her doctor for a tubal ligation, but he turned her down. She became pregnant shortly after, and made the decision to terminate the pregnancy.
“Did I have that baby?” Hamilton said to the crowd. “No, I did not. Because I was blessed to be pregnant at a time when Roe v. Wade had just gotten passed.”
Speaking at a rally at the Spokane Tribal Gathering Place, Hamilton was one of many who participated in a nationwide protest: “Stop the Bans National Day of Action.” The rallies were in response to the swath of states that have passed restrictive laws on abortion, commonly referred to as “fetal heartbeat bills,” which make abortion illegal once a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
Cornell Clayton, director of the Washington State University Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service, said these laws are unconstitutional under the precedent set by Roe v. Wade, with an important caveat.
“Supreme Court is not bound by its own previous precedent, they can always re-examine them,” Clayton said. “It’s probably consistent to say it’s established law today, which it is. Meaning that all lower courts have to abide by that decision, and then tomorrow say the Supreme Court should reverse that decision … what none of these justices have committed to is never reversing the decision.”
Clayton, in referring to those who are considered the conservative justices – Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and John Roberts. He said he thinks the X-factor in how this will play out is Roberts.
“Chief Justice Roberts, who has indicated he’s willing to in the past, may be hesitant, and I think a lot of it had to do with his role as a chief justice, and not wanting to polarize this political debate around the court anymore,” Clayton said.
Another rally speaker, Lola Fridley, told the story of her recent miscarriage in a coffee shop bathroom. Fridley didn’t know she was pregnant at the time. Under the recent Georgia law – which would prosecute doctors for performing abortions – those who miscarry can be questioned in the investigation of the doctor.
The most restrictive law, adopted in Alabama, made no exceptions in the case of rape or incest. Anna Bohach, Selkirk Prolife Alliance Communications Director, said in a phone interview that she thought the law was appropriate. Bohach said she is a rape survivor, and if she had become pregnant as a product of rape, she wouldn’t have had an abortion.
“I think all life is sacred,” Bohach said. “I don’t think an unborn baby should be punished for the crimes of the father.”
Bohach is the mother of a child with Down syndrome and is troubled by laws that make exceptions.
“People will twist and still justify aborting a baby with Down syndrome,” Bohach said. “For me, I don’t think there should be any exception to abortion except for like ectopic pregnancy where you’re going to die unless you have an abortion.”
Clayton doesn’t believe the Alabama law will be seen by the Supreme Court.
“It’s more likely that they will take some of these other laws that are less restrictive of the abortion rights, but nevertheless pretty restrictive,” Clayton said. “ … They’ll allow for significantly more regulation and more regulation of abortion until it becomes more and more difficult for women to obtain abortion without overturning Roe outright.”
Clayton said he thinks if the Supreme Court does weaken Roe v. Wade by upholding fetal heartbeat bills, the Republican’s next step will be to pass similar federal legislation.
Though this type of legislation wouldn’t pass through the House with its current political makeup, the U.S. does not know what the future holds, Clayton said. When there was a Republican-controlled House, the Supreme Court would not have overturned Roe v. Wade, which prevented this type of legislation.
“Once you remove that obstacle, then I think the political pressure on the Republican-controlled Congress will be intense to pass anti-abortion statutes,” Clayton said.
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