A Year Later: What to do about the Dobbs Abortion Setback


A year has passed since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade. That year brought deepening divisions between anti-abortion forces celebrating the anniversary and pro-abortion activists still reeling from the Dobbs v Jackson decision.

Without Roe there has been an upheaval. In one swoop the court struck down a federal right that existed almost 50 years, a right recognized so long ago that those of reproductive age had never lived in a world without it. The decision in Dobbs immediately triggered abortion bans in 14 states and led to restrictions and attempted bans in half a dozen others. States like Texas and Idaho went a step farther and passed bounty-hunting laws.

The sheer number of state legislators and governors – nearly 1,600 — who worked to help pass abortion bans is appalling. One can look at the faces of these lawmakers, published in the June 22 Guardian.  These 1,572 US politicians helped ban abortion.

The take-away after viewing these anti-abortion politicians is that they’re overwhelmingly older Republican guys (1,292). They were joined by 214 Republican women, 53 Democratic men, 11 Democratic women, and two independents. As a group, the 1,572 elected officials are overwhelmingly white.

But while this coalition of anti-abortionists was fired up into enacting bans and restrictions, there has been very different responses in more than a dozen other states, where reaction to overturning Roe has been almost entirely opposed.

Take Washington state as an example. This state’s voters legalized abortion until fetal viability back in 1970, a full two years before the Court decided Roe. A second statewide vote in 1991 reaffirmed that right and now, since Dobbs, Washington has passed additional laws ensuring the legal right to abortion no matter if you’re a minor or adult, an immigrant, married or single. Washington offers help to low-income and out-of-state patients and protects providers from restrictive policies crossing states’ lines.

In just the past 12 months, the U.S. has become an increasingly divided nation. Before the Court acted to overturn Roe, support for reproductive rights had remained remarkedly consistent over the decades: some 60 percent of Americans approved abortion with some restrictions. However, since Dobbs, there have been significant jumps in support for abortion. This is clear from a New York Times story, How a Year Without Roe Shifted American Views on Abortion.

The New York Times article quoted Molly Wilson O’Reilly, a writer for a lay Catholic publication and the mother of four. O’Reilly reflected the pre-Dobbs mood saying, “While Roe was settled law, you kind of didn’t have to worry about the consequences.”

Raised in the church, O’Reilly had embraced the church’s teaching that abortion was equivalent to murder. Her evolution to supporting abortion rights started two years ago when she had a miscarriage that required an emergency dilation and curettage. Only when she saw her medical chart did she realize that’s the technical name for abortion.

O’Reilly experienced a change of heart reinforced by reading news stories detailing some of the devastating cases. She concluded, “If you start seeing how reproductive health care is necessary to women, you start to see that, if you’re supporting policies that ban abortion, you’re going to end up killing women.”

Recognition that pregnant individuals – particularly minorities and the poor – are at risk has been gaining converts. This change shows up in certain demographic groups, including Black Protestants and Hispanic Catholics and even some Republican men. Pollsters today rank public support for most abortions somewhere between 60 and 70 percent.

Increasing public support for abortion is also what drove voters to the polls in the 2022 midterms. Not only were voters making decisions based on candidates’ positions on abortion, but the abortion issue was drawing larger numbers of young voters to the polls. Among the losers in 2022 were anti-abortion candidates like Arizona’s Blake Masters, Nevada’s Adam Laxalt, Pennsylvania’s Doug Mastriano, and Georgia’s Hershel Walker.

What now preoccupies pro-abortion activists is what can be done to reverse or change the Dobbs decision. Although no one believes it will be easy to revisit the issue, there have been some suggestions and thoughts for moving forward. Among them:

  1. Keep the abortion issue ever current: talk about Dobbs as bad law (recall that it lost twice in state courts).
  2. Discuss the absurdity of Justice Samuel Alioto’s majority opinion in Dobbs that relied heavily upon rulings by Judge Matthew Hale, a 17th English jurist who burned witches and ruled that men could not be prosecuted for raping their wives. See The Dobbs v. Jackson Decision.
  3. Insist that strong support for abortion is featured prominently in the Democratic national platform in all coming elections.
  4. Introduce a constitutional amendment affirming reproductive rights. While passage is most unlikely, people need to know that there is a pathway.
  5. Encourage lawyers to file abortion cases, raising such related issues as involuntary servitude or preemption of state laws. Having cases in the pipeline and publicizing those disputes is important.
  6. Already there have been 15 lawsuits filed in eight states charging that abortion bans and restrictions have infringed on individuals’ beliefs. See Religious Freedom Arguments Underpin Wave of Challenges to Abortion Bans.
  7. Remorseful second thoughts among the court’s conservative majority are unlikely, but the justices may become concerned over their blatant political image. Is this the legacy they want to leave?
  8. Some justices are no longer young and there will inevitably be vacancies in the future.
  9. In his response to the Dobbs decision, President Biden urged voters to elect lawmakers who will pass a law to reinstate Roe v Wade. Support candidates with a firm stand on the issue.
  10. Better vetting is needed for all future Supreme Court nominees. It’s deplorable that three sitting justices were approved after lying when they said Roe v Wade was “settled law.” Voters should demand senators do a better job.
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 jgodden@blarg.net.


  1. I am dismayed at the use of the phrase, ‘pro-abortion,’ one that is used by anti-abortion people to wrongly characterize those of us who are PRO-CHOICE. There’s a difference and it’s important.

    I remember when abortion was illegal in this state. I remember that some women I knew obtained illegal abortions, in this county or outside this country if they could afford it. Each of them felt anxiety and some degree of shame, unnecessary shame, I think, because they did what was best for them. I remember listening to psychiatrists saying how much they disliked having to state that a pregnant woman’s mental health was endangered if she continued a pregnancy. They did so because they supported her right to decide what to do about a pregnancy. I know women who had abortions because of failed contraception, including a failed vasectomy. I know that none of them made the decision for an abortion lightly, that each of them had no regrets about their decision.

    I am pro-choice. That means I support each pregnant person’s right to bodily autonomy and to reproductive health care. I think that when an unplanned, unintended and/or unwanted pregnancy occurs, the decision about whether to continue the pregnancy or terminate it belongs with the pregnant person. If that person chooses to involve others, that’s a choice that belongs with her. I want her to make the decision that’s the best one for her, whether to continue the pregnancy or terminate it. I want safe abortion care to be available as well as care following an abortion, if needed. I want safe reproductive health care to be available if the decision is to continue the pregnancy. The choice belongs with her, not with me or anybody else.

  2. Excellent analysis, Jean. Here is what we will continue to do: Speak out against candidates who check the other boxes, except for their anti-choice.

    2. Elect more female officeholders, particularly younger women and women of color who have been so impacted by Dobbs.

    3. As you said: Keep bringing the topic back to abortion rights. It’s deplorable that so much coverage of Republican candidates touches on their environmental record, their stance on social security, etc., etc., and omits ANY mention of their common opposition to basic reproduction rights.

  3. And now, we have the revolting spectacle of a Texas Supreme Court setting aside a lower court decision that would have allowed a pregnant woman to end her impossible pregnancy– a pregnancy that offered no hope of the child surviving more than a few hours …. and which is putting the mother’s life in danger.

    (Though the action is “temporary”, the Court offered no timeline for when they would revisit the decision. The longer the delay, the worse for the mother. )

    Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who will never know the agony of an untenable pregnancy, has threatened to take legal action against anyone assisting this desperate woman.

    Republican Party is stepping up its war on women and girls.


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