Editorial: 'They're coming for you next'

  • by BAR Editorial Board
  • Wednesday June 29, 2022
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Governor Gavin Newsom, flanked by state leaders, talked about the U.S. Supreme Court's Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision that overturned Roe v. Wade during a June 24 news conference. Photo: Courtesy Governor's Office
Governor Gavin Newsom, flanked by state leaders, talked about the U.S. Supreme Court's Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision that overturned Roe v. Wade during a June 24 news conference. Photo: Courtesy Governor's Office

California officials spent last Friday telling the public and reporters that the state is a safe haven for those seeking an abortion and will likely become even more inviting to those seeking such services as a package of reproductive justice bills makes its way through the Legislature and is signed by Governor Gavin Newsom. This comes in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization that overturned Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood, the two precedents that established a right to abortion. On Monday, lawmakers passed State Constitutional Amendment 10, which will now go on the November ballot; it would enshrine the right to an abortion and the right to contraceptives in the California Constitution.

It was during a June 24 news conference, however, that Newsom let loose, saying in no uncertain terms what the draconian Supreme Court ruling means, not just for women and others who give birth such as trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming people, but for the greater LGBTQ community and other minorities. For one, as legal observers and others have noted, the court's ruling marks the first time that a constitutional right has been stripped away, in this case one that's been on the books for nearly 50 years. Additionally, Justice Clarence Thomas' frightening concurring opinion opens the door to the court overturning other precedents, like same-sex marriage (Obergefell v. Hodges), same-sex sexual relations (Lawrence v. Texas), and the right for couples to use contraception without government restriction (Griswold v. Connecticut). Newsom spoke of the "enormity of the moment" and how it isn't lost on him. "I'm sorry as well," he said, "but a little less sorry than pissed."

The governor said he's mindful of the outsize role the Golden State will now play in abortion access — since the ruling it is now illegal or heavily restricted in 11 states, according to NPR, with the practice expected to be banned in about half the states. And he said California will "double down" as the various reproductive justice bills are approved. In response to a question, he also acknowledged that national Democrats could do more. Ever since Roe was decided in 1973, anti-choice forces have laid the groundwork that led to the Dobbs decision. That included successfully putting anti-choice politicians in office, and culminated with former President Donald Trump, who named three Supreme Court justices — all opposed to abortion and part of the majority opinion — who were approved with a laser-like focus by a Senate led by then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). Newsom noted that these same politicians have spent the last several years attacking rights for transgender people. "Nine states have bans on trans girls from playing sports," he said, before he got to his main point.

"They're coming for you next," Newsom warned. "I'm resolved to wake all of us up to what's going on in this country." Republicans, he said, are aggressively and successfully rolling back rights. "They're not pro-life, they're pro-birth," he said, referring to Build Back Better, President Joe Biden's nearly $2 trillion domestic program, which is effectively dead because of Republican opposition as well as that of two Democratic senators, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Newsom said it was "pro-family" legislation.

Most troubling to Newsom and us is Thomas' concurrence and his willingness, no, eagerness, to overturn the aforementioned rulings on marriage equality, same-sex relations, and contraception. "A Supreme Court justice expressed clarity to reconsider same-sex marriage," Newsom said.

So, yes, while abortion opponents are having their moment and relishing the demise of a long-held right, they're not stopping there. Conservatives want to return American society to past centuries by controlling people's bodily autonomy, who they can sleep with, and who they can marry. But they have absolutely no proposals to address the consequences of their actions. There will be no massive increase in funding for low-income people forced to carry pregnancies to term, there will be no expansion of Medicaid in those red states, which would provide healthcare for low-income Americans.

In addition to the real possibility of the high court accepting a case that could potentially overturn previous decisions like the legalization of same-sex marriage, there could be a federal ban on abortion, which would negate the safe haven status that California and other states, like Oregon and Washington, have established. That's why as dismal as Democrats' prospects look in this November midterm elections, we hope that women and others impacted by the court's reversal of Roe will vote in large numbers for candidates who support pro-choice laws and policies. We lived through former President George W. Bush's push for a federal same-sex marriage ban, and while thankfully that did not come to fruition, the political landscape has changed dramatically since the early 2000s. Today, the Republican Party looks nothing like it did during Bush's time, and it's full of people who dismiss science and reality. The lasting damage of the Trump administration reverberates far beyond the Supreme Court: it's evident in myriad congressional races and among candidates for statewide offices. Newsom is right, except they are already coming for us and have set their targets. We must be prepared.

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