The Last Days of Reproductive Freedom


The anonymous leak of Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion has made clear that a Supreme Court majority intends to overturn Roe v Wade, the 50-year-old precedent legalizing abortion. For many of us, it’s a nightmare close to reality.

Donald Trump’s nomination of three conservative justices — candidates who lied during confirmation about their allegiance to settled law — has done what so-called pro-lifers have been trying to do for nearly 50 years. It’s obvious the three justices, allied with Justice Alito and Justice Clarence Thomas, don’t mind branding the Supreme Court as a blatantly political institution.  

The damage such a Supreme Court decision will make is far-reaching. Not only will it cruelly deprive women of a right to make their own health decisions; it will cast a shadow over the Supreme Court itself and the justices who serve there. How can a nation rely on an institution that has sacrificed its integrity? How can the public depend on the judgment of those who professed to honor past decisions but then appear willing to discard established law at a first opportunity?

The Supreme Court’s final decision, perhaps slightly altered during discussion, is expected in late June or early July. Overturning Roe will immediately trigger laws in dozens of states, ending or narrowly restricting abortions in an estimated 26 states. 

But overturning Roe will not end abortions for women living in those states. Most who find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy will seek ways to obtain help. Those who can afford to do so will travel to other states and countries where abortions remain legal. Those newly pregnant will obtain medications to assist with self-abortion. Regrettably there will be others — most of them poor, minority, or both — who will resort to back-alley abortions and unsafe remedies. There will be injuries; and there will be deaths.

Justice Alito’s 98-page draft decision opens a Pandora’s Box of possible added consequences. It not only strips one half of the population of their rights, but it calls into question the fundamental right to privacy, the “Constitutional Penumbra” of implied rights on which Roe was decided in 1973. Abolishing Roe may affect other privacy rights such as contraception and same-sex marriage. 

What the Supreme Court decision is about to do will erode American freedom. We cannot be a free nation when more than half of the nation is deprived of the control their own bodies. I fear that these weeks while we await the issuing of the final Supreme Court decision are the last days of reproductive freedom in America.

Jean Godden
Jean Godden
Jean Godden wrote columns first for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and late for the Seattle Times. In 2002, she quit to run for City Council where she served for 12 years. Since then she published a book of city stories titled “Citizen Jean.” She is now co-host of The Bridge aired on community station KMGP at 101.1 FM. You can email tips and comments to Jean at


  1. Definitely a long step backwards into inequality, obstruction, ignorance, and intrusion into innocent private life. Finally also , continued undemocratic minority rule. Nothing better than a wanted child; nothing worse than one unwanted.

  2. These are decisions that should be left to individuals and their doctors to decide, not the state, nor to zealots on the right, many of whom are determined to give legal standing to a fertilized egg.

      • @ Phil Lofurno: I’d like to know who the hell you think YOU are, to decide that for anyone other than yourself? There’s a name for creatures who are not permitted to control their own reproduction. That name is livestock.

        Take heart, Jean. These fetus fascists are going to lose, just like the Prohibitionists who tried to outlaw alcohol failed a century ago. The public at large delivered them a collective upraised middle finger, and flooded the nation with illegal booze, just like we’re going to flood all those states with mifepristone and misoprostol. These laws will be unenforceable in the long run, though as you say, there will be a lot of short-term harm.

        • So, Ivan, you personally condone aborting a fetus at 8mo. 29days. Enlighten us as to afterbirth abortion – is that also a choice ?

          • It’s none of your business, none of mine, none of any church’s, and none of this government’s.

        • Nobody is stopping anybody from reproducing. You have control over your reproduction. What’s being limited is the callous discarding of the life resulting from reproduction. You don’t have control over ending a life you created.

          We all have a vested interest in recognizing the intrinsic value of human life, especially the smallest and least of us.

  3. Saturday’s WSJ provides a less frantic prediction of what might happen post-Roe. They describe the example of current law in Europe.
    Europe’s abortion laws are made by elected officials, giving constructive means for citizens to cause adoption of rules that reflect their views. The result is a wide variety of laws, varying from country to country, with freedom of movement if your country’s rules don’t work for you.
    Although those rules are generally more restrictive than those set by Roe, abortion is not the same major source of division that it is here.

  4. Well said Jean. Making abortion illegal won’t stop it. This is a question of reproductive justice. There may never be consensus on the issue of abortion, but the decision should not be up to courts or legislatures. Women must have control over their own bodies. And isn’t it interesting that so many who want to take away that right also are against birth control and sex education.

  5. How can we have true liberty if some human lives are deemed disposable?

    What is the difference between Ivan the embryo and Ivan the adult that JUSTIFIES the different treatment? Yes there are differences, obviously, but which difference is the gold standard that says “this life is OK to end, but this life is protected”?

    I agree with less government intrusion, but not with NO intrusion at all. I don’t want to live in anarchy, at mercy of whoever currently has power over me. The government has an interest in upholding the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all people. So, again, the question boils down to, is the thing growing inside of a woman, a “person” with natural rights that our government is bound to protect? What makes adult Ivan more “person” than embryo Ivan? And is it a sound argument that can be used to justify other types of murder?

    • Well, Vanessa, if you believe the government has an interest in upholding the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all people, then how do you reconcile that with your position that the government should be able to force women to give birth against their will?

      That embryo within them is a human life, you say, and to end that life is murder, you say. Because life begins at conception, you say. OK, I get that this is your religious belief. You are entitled to it, and I will defend your right to believe it. More than that, I will defend your right to practice it, in your own life.

      But when you insist that it be applied to women who do not share those beliefs, and you insist that the coercive power of the government be used to punish women for not sharing your religious beliefs, you have crossed the line into religious absolutism, and your statement that you believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all rings very, very false.

      Do not imagine that you will prevail. Prepare to experience overwhelming opposition to, and defiance of, your position. We live in the 21st century, and not the 16th or 17th.

      • Belief? It is scientific fact that a distinct human life with their own DNA is created at conception.

        You still haven’t defended your beliefs as to why it is OK to destroy a life in the womb. Mine isn’t a religious belief, but one of logic. There is no essential difference between embryo Ivan and adult Ivan that justifies the different treatment.

        That is why I am absolutely insisting that the government be consistent and logical in protecting all people’s unalienable rights, foremost of which is the right to life.

        • As I said, do not imagine that you will prevail. The vast majority of Americans, in every single poll taken to date, reject your position. The point at which you believe life begins might be relevant — and I will grant, compelling — to you and to others, but it is repugnant to the rest of us, who continue to insist that only the pregnant woman should be empowered by law to make that decision.

          Do you believe the government should have the power to order a man to get a vasectomy? Probably not.

          • I don’t think a pregnant woman, with a potential arduous nine months ahead of her, should be granted special privileges to take the life of her child because of hardships. Lots of things in life are difficult, suffering is par for course, that doesn’t give any of us the right to kill someone to make our lives easier. Can I kill a toddler because I’m poor, on drugs, or not in a good place right now in my life? Of course not. Back to original question, what is that essential difference that makes abortion acceptable but child murder unacceptable?

            Note, however, if continuing the pregnancy threatens her life, then induce labor or do an emergency c-section and save her life. Why do we assume killing the child is necessary to save the mother’s life? The child may still pass away because of the circumstances, such is life, but there is no medical need to kill the child first.

            A vasectomy does not take a life, so, of course the government should not have a say.

            Ivan, thank you graciously engaging with me. I do believe one day we will look back on abortion with horror and disgust. I used to be pro-choice so I am well-aware of all the arguments in favor of abortion. Part of me is still astounded at how blind I was—I didn’t care to know the truth! Based on my experience, I now see how easy it is for us to look back in history and judge people for their obvious evils, but not even be aware that our own thoughts and opinions are equally abhorrent. Ultimately, the truth will prevail and people will recognize the faulty philosophical underpinnings that prop up pro-abortion arguments. I think that day is sooner than you think. Thanks again, have a nice sunny day.

  6. Don’t know about your last sentence , and ask wether the sperm doner should have any say in decision to abort.
    I am very old and do not know anyone who might be against birth control. As far as sex education, isn’t junior high soon enough ?

  7. “Life, or not” isn’t the question. Everything in there is alive. Normal sexual cycles come at the expense of countless “lives”. I’m not aware of any society that categorically forbids the taking of life. It isn’t about life – that’s a cop out, a way to pretend it isn’t a grey area. So is claiming that it’s a religious issue – it isn’t, really, unless you think moral decisions are essentially religious, which is a fallacy.

    But it is a grey area, that neither religion nor philosophy can rescue us from. We just have to live with that, and know that today’s ideas about it may not be tomorrow’s.

    In the mean time, it’s a good idea to take a break from moral posture, and have a look at the real world. For one thing, as Linda K Jenning points out above, in reality this is not about saving “lives” anyway, because the number of abortions won’t decrease significantly. Another thing that’s worth remembering, on the subject of late term abortion – we’re talking here about women who have carried for enough months that it’s no longer a question of convenience or family planning etc., so it’s silly to talk about it in terms of abstract, specific time limits – every case here can be presumed to be an exception based on circumstances.

    • In the real world, these laws will prove unenforceable. People will weary of them, people will weary of those who insist on enforcing them, and people will weary of the increased cost of enforcing them. We only have to look back to the prohibition of alcohol a century ago. It brought on the greatest outpouring of mass civil disobedience and outright, overt flouting of the law in the nation’s peacetime

      It brought on smuggling, bribery of law enforcement and elected officials, selective law enforcement that victimized the most vulnerable, a “snitch society” that pitted neighbor against neighbor, illegal searches and seizures, and ultimately, rejection of the entire “noble experiment,” and marginalization and ridicule for those who brought it about.

      One American ethos that predated, and likely will outlast, “the sanctity of human embryonic life” is tax aversion. Another is “mind your own damn business.” The anti-abortion fanatics and the fetus fascists are going to learn this the hard way. Unfortunately, the rest of us will have to endure the hard way, too. Buckle up. It’s going to be a hard ride.


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