NLG Statement on Overturning Roe v. Wade

Support of Comprehensive Reproductive Freedom

By National Lawyers Guild

This statement is about a draft opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, meaning that it is not yet an official SCOTUS opinion and has not yet had any legislation passed based on it. Abortion is still legal in the United States, subject to the same local laws as before this draft opinion was leaked. For more information on laws in your area, please see the state policies page of the Guttmacher Institute’s website.

On Monday, May 2, a leaked draft opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization confirmed what many reproductive justice and human rights activists both feared and predicted: that the Supreme Court of the United States intends to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case protecting people’s autonomy in seeking an abortion.

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) is outraged. As a human rights organization, we staunchly support the rights to privacy, bodily autonomy, and medical care, and oppose the criminalization of reproductive decision-making. Our fundamental belief in maintaining abortion legalization is what compelled us to join an amicus brief on this very Supreme Court case. This regressive draft decision on Roe v. Wade is more evidence that our current systems of law do not exist to protect people. Though the NLG hopes that this decision will be mitigated by federal-level affirmative legislation around abortion rights, we also thoroughly understand that the U.S. judicial and legislative offices cannot and will not liberate us and our communities.

Importantly, we are seeing this attack carried out amidst an onslaught of legislation criminalizing access to gender affirming care and attempts to prosecute abortions, miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, and other non-abortive losses of pregnancy. The draft court opinion itself implies extensive consequences for gay marriage, interracial marriage, and contraception access, all of which were decided on the same basis of a right to privacy. These efforts are not unrelated; they are all part of a coordinated, fascist effort to expand state control over marginalized people’s bodies, a project that has and will continue to disproportionately harm Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color; sex workers; immigrants; queer, disabled, fat, and/or low-income people; and folks in rural areas with fewer options for medical care, especially in states controlled by conservative legislatures.

These acts of state violence affirm again that we cannot rely on the U.S. government to defend human rights. The NLG will continue defending organizers and activists in the streets and the courtrooms as they pursue substantive and compassionate community care. We hope that NLG members and allies join us in supporting and imagining what community- and people-oriented care look like beyond and in spite of the institutions that the state offers us.

The NLG urges folks who are newly engaging in abortion access advocacy to look to the leadership of long-time reproductive justice organizers. Reproductive justice activism has been ongoing for generations, predominantly envisioned, implemented, and led by Black women. The networks and knowledge cultivated by decades of organizing are and will remain an indispensable part of creating genuinely equitable and just abortion access; it is urgent that new activists support these efforts rather than co-opting them

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