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The end of abortion rights is just the beginning

Demonstrators gather outside of the U.S. Supreme Court on May 02, 2022 in Washington, DC. In an initial draft majority opinion obtained by Politico, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito allegedly wrote that the cases Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey should be overturned, which would end federal protection of abortion rights across the country. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
Demonstrators gather outside of the U.S. Supreme Court on May 02, 2022 in Washington, DC. In an initial draft majority opinion obtained by Politico, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito allegedly wrote that the cases Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey should be overturned, which would end federal protection of abortion rights across the country. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

This is not a drill. If the leaked draft Supreme Court decision is correct, Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood vs. Casey are about to be overturned. It means the legality of abortion will be left up to the individual states — currently only 17 have laws on the books protecting abortion rights when Roe falls. With new abortion bans in places like Kentucky and Oklahoma announced just in the past few weeks, the situation is grim.

While the fallout from this leak is still coming into focus, some pieces of the puzzle are already clear. Here is what you need to know:

A constitutionally protected right to abortion continues to exist in America. As of now, nothing has changed. The leaked document is a draft opinion, and no final decision has been issued. If you or someone you know needs abortion care, seeking that care is still your right. You can find an abortion provider here.

This crisis won’t be limited to red states. As blue states scramble to pass laws that will create abortion havens, people from states with abortion bans are already traveling in search of the care they need. In the wake of Texas’s devastating abortion ban, states like Massachusetts quickly saw an influx of out-of-state patients with the means to hop on a plane. Typically, those appointments would go to patients from Massachusetts and other people from New England states. With ban after ban after ban passing in Republican-controlled state houses across the country — and with Roe on the chopping block — access to abortion care here in the commonwealth is about to constrict dramatically.

The American people support abortion rights. This issue has been hijacked by vocal extremists, but the numbers are clear: this country supports Roe v. Wade and legal access to abortion care. Polling from earlier this year showed that nearly 70% of Americans do not want to see Roe overturned. Don’t be fooled by conservative talking heads or right-wing keyboard warriors. Abortion is not a divisive issue in the United States of America.

Polling from earlier this year showed that nearly 70% of Americans do not want to see Roe overturned.

People will die if Roe is overturned. The end of Roe will not be the end of abortions for people in states with bans. Rather, it will mean the end of safe abortions. And as we’ve long known, pregnancy carries greater risks than abortion does. A 2021 research study  predicted that abortion bans would lead to a 21% increase in pregnancy-related deaths. All of these detrimental public health outcomes will disproportionately impact people of color and other people already facing inequities. A majority of the Supreme Court will have blood on its hands in the wake of this anticipated ruling.

Abortion rights are just the beginning. Brace yourself, the worst is yet to come. The leaked draft — penned by Justice Samuel Alito — previews some of the interconnected rights that conservative extremists are also targeting, by criticizing the landmark Obergefell v Hodges decision that brought marriage equality to all Americans. Mere weeks ago, Republican Sen. Mike Braun opined that interracial marriage should once again be left to the states. Multiple Republican politicians have clearly stated an opposition to birth control — birth control! — as part of their platforms. Anti-abortion advocates and their GOP allies in Congress are rallying around legislation that would place a federal ban on abortion. And all of this comes in the midst of a coordinated effort, also by the GOP and conservatives on the Court, to attack voting rights, making it more difficult for Americans to express their point of view at the ballot box. Before you say “that will never happen” or “you’re being hysterical,” don’t. Because that’s what everyone said about the Supreme Court taking a sledgehammer to Roe — and here we are.

This fight isn’t over. I’m not going to sugar coat things: these are dark days, and they will be for some time. But giving up isn’t an option. We have to support organizations in the trenches, protecting abortion rights — abortion access funds and abortion legal defense funds. We have to make sure that Democrats retain control of the House and Senate in the mid-term elections, and that means every one of us has to donate, volunteer and vote for abortion rights champions. We have to elect abortion rights supporters to city halls and state houses, because that’s where this struggle will play out for the foreseeable future. We must demand that our elected officials who check the box as  “supporting abortion rights” understand that they are being held to a higher standard. This moment calls for full-throated abortion rights advocacy and action (I’m looking at you, U.S. Senate and your failure to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act). And we must insist that any elected official who purports to back abortion rights also backs ending the filibuster and expanding the Supreme Court, or we risk being on the losing end of this battle for decades to come.

If you’re going to fight back, you need to stay informed. A few places to start: Rewire News GroupReproductive Equity NowImani GandiJessica Mason PielkoMini Timmaraju and Renee Bracey Sherman. Learn from and lift up the voices of the diverse leaders who have been at the heart of this movement.

This day has been in the works for years. Though it may not come as a shock to those who have been sounding the alarm, it is still a punch to the gut. I’ve long been steeling myself for the end of Roe, and it still felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me when the news flashed across my phone last night.

It’s more than okay to take a moment to process and to grieve. That’s certainly what I will be doing. But then I’m going to put on Ella Fitzgerald’s recording of “Pick Yourself Up,” and I’m going to channel those lyrics: “Nothing's impossible, I have found, For when my chin is on the ground, I pick myself up, dust myself off, And start all over again.” The cheerful melody may not match my mood, but the sentiment is spot on.

Keeping going in light of Roe’s looming demise simply cannot be impossible. And so it won’t be. We will get our chins off of the ground by any means necessary, and work for as long as it takes until abortion rights are restored and protected for all Americans.

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Jesse Mermell Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Jesse Mermell is the former president of the Alliance for Business Leadership and a former candidate for Congress in Massachusetts' 4th Congressional District.

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