‘Our deepest fears’: Salem residents, health care providers prepare for abortion ruling
Community members marched through downtown Salem Tuesday and gathered at the Oregon State Capitol to oppose the possible overturning of federal abortion protections following the leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade.
More than 100 people gathered at Riverfront Park shortly after 6 p.m. holding protest signs, listening to music and writing various abortion-rights messages on the sidewalk before their walk through Salem streets.
The gathering comes after Politico published a draft U.S. Supreme Court majority opinion suggesting that the U.S. Supreme Court could be poised to overturn the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.
"Roe was egregiously wrong from the start," Associate Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the leaked draft, which the high court later confirmed was authentic. "We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled."
The news prompted an overnight call for action in Salem and nationwide.
Under the draft opinion, the issue of abortion would be left to individual states. Oregon has laws in place that would allow abortions to continue legally. But many other states, including neighboring Idaho, have laws that would make abortions illegal if the federal protection is struck down.
State Planned Parenthood leaders spoke during a news conference Tuesday about the leaked decision and preparation for people from neighboring states to travel to Oregon for care should Roe v. Wade be overturned.
Citing the Guttmacher Institute, they said there could be a 234% increase in abortion care sought in Oregon and Washington.
Rights to abortion have been codified in Oregon law since the Legislature passed the Health Equity Act of 2017. Abortion remains a constitutional right in the country, added Lisa Gardner, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Oregon.
"But, this leak makes it very clear that our deepest fears are coming true," Gardner said. "We are at a crisis moment for abortion access."
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Abortion rights also go beyond legality, added An Do, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon.
Eastern Oregonians who previously traveled to Idaho for an abortion would be forced to travel much further for access to care in Oregon. The state's easternmost Planned Parenthood location is in Bend.
"Rural communities grapple a lot with inaccess to care," Do said.
While Roe provided the legal right to abortions, economic and geographic barriers still exist, she said.
The Oregon Legislature has been working to expand access. It approved $15 million during the 2022 legislative session to be distributed by Seeding Justice. A full contract and guidelines for the money are still in the works but allowable uses include additional funding for the Northwest Abortion Access Fund, which helps connect patients with logistical support such as travel or procedure funds.
Providers are preparing to meet the need they are likely to see, said Anne Udall, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Columbia Willamette. They have been working with their staff across the state to be prepared for the high need, Udall said.
“We will be there for our out-of-state neighbors,” Udall added.
Angel Craig during Tuesday's march held a pink sign from 2004's March for Women's Lives in Washington, D.C. "My body is not public property," it read.
Craig has been marching in support of reproductive rights since childhood. Craig's mother was a feminist from the '60s who strongly believed in women's rights issues. The sign is still relevant, Craig said.
"And I will keep coming here until I can retire this sign," Craig added.
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Collin Teal also joined to support women's rights. He said abortion rights are a matter of life and death for many people.
"It's crazy that people have been having this fight for as long as they have and we're not making any progress," Teal said. "It's a basic human right. Period."
Speakers at the Capitol spoke about their frustration with national elected leaders and urged community members to continue speaking out against inaction. They suggested a nationwide strike should abortion protections be eliminated.
Participants hung wire hangers on the fence of the Oregon Capitol at the end of the event.
Tuesday was the first time Ivy Williams had attended a protest. The news was too important to ignore, she said.
She said she used to be "super Mormon" and was made to think having kids was "the best job in the entire world." Having kids was the hardest thing she has ever done, she said.
"Being a parent should be a choice," Williams said. "Kids shouldn't be forced into the world lightly."