Berkeley community reacts to Supreme Court decision on Texas abortion ban

photo of the US Supreme Court
Joe Ravi/Creative Commons
The Berkeley community responds to the U.S. Supreme Court's Wednesday decision, which failed to block Texas' abortion law allowing private citizens to sue anyone involved in abortion procedures after the first six weeks of pregnancy. Photo by Joe Ravi under CC-BY-SA-3.0-US.

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Although she was involved in activism throughout high school, campus freshman Stephanie Quinones rarely focused on women’s rights because she saw the issue as less relevant in California.

However, when she heard about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Wednesday refusing to block Texas’ restrictive abortion law, she became “outraged,” and decided to offer women who may be seeking abortions in the Bay Area transportation to and from the airport on Twitter.

“Knowing the Supreme Court had the power to override the bill — it just outrages me a lot, especially as a woman and a woman of color,” Quinones said. “Now is the time to step out of the bubble and start advocating.”

Texas’ law allows private citizens to sue anyone involved in obtaining an abortion after the six-week window before fetal cardiac activity begins.

According to Rachel Johnson-Farias, executive director of the Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice at UC Berkeley School of Law, the Supreme Court’s decision could encourage other states to pass similarly restrictive laws and drive those with unwanted pregnancies to seek abortions out-of-state.

The six-week window often passes before people know they are pregnant, Johnson-Farias said. She added that the ban is an extra burden on women of color and low-income women who may not have the means to pay the penalty for violating the ban or travel out-of-state to find care.

“The Supreme Court’s failure to block this law has effectively laid out a road map for those who would like to replicate it to follow,” Johnson-Farias said. “This is the canary in the coal mine.”

The Supreme Court did not rule on the constitutionality of the law. However, Johnson-Farias said that if some states do decide to replicate the Texas ban, it could eventually lead to a challenge to Roe v. Wade.

Chief Justice John Roberts notably sided with the minority in the 5-4 vote, in hopes of taking more time to consider the law’s unusual strategy of delegating enforcement of the ban to the public, according to his dissent.

“Never has Roe v. Wade been in so much risk of being overturned, and we must do what we can to prevent that from happening,” said Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín in an email. “In Berkeley we stand strongly by health care providers in Texas and throughout the country to continue to provide health care services to women without any restrictions.”

Arreguín added that he is in support of efforts to pass federal legislation that would ensure the right to abortion.

Johnson-Farias also noted the need for stronger protections of reproductive rights beyond Roe v. Wade and the calls for Congress to take action.

“Roe v. Wade was never the ceiling — it was always the floor,” Johnson-Farias said. “What I hope is that this leads to the wholesale adoption (of) a fundamental right to abortion.”

Contact Emma Taila at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @emmataila.