Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2022. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years, a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court’s landmark abortion cases. (AP Photo / Jose Luis Magana)

Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2022. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years, a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court’s landmark abortion cases. (AP Photo / Jose Luis Magana)

Alaskans react to Supreme Court overturn of Roe v. Wade

The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion.

This is a developing story, and it will be updated.

Alaskans woke up Friday to the news the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision had been overturned in the U.S. Supreme Court, ending nearly 50 years of legally protected access to abortion and clearing the path for states to establish their own laws on the procedure.

Alaska’s Supreme Court has repeatedly found the state’s constitution has protected the right to abortion in the state regardless of the Roe decision, but many Alaskans were deeply upset by the ruling.

Thirty-three-year-old Emily Chapel, stood on the corner of Egan Drive and Main Street in downtown Juneau Friday morning with a handmade sign reading “No forced births,” “I trust women,” and “F—-k SCOTUS,” the acronym for the Supreme Court of the United States.

Chapel said she had chosen her location because of its visibility and closeness to the cruise ship docks.

“Passengers on the cruise ships probably come from states where there are trigger laws,” Chapel said, referring to provisions in state laws that would ban abortion as soon as the Roe decision was reversed.

According to the Associated Press, 13 states have trigger laws.

“I wanted those people who are scared, who are feeling fear about that to know that they are not alone, same goes for the women here in Juneau,” Chapel said.

Standing on the corner with Chapel was Brian Sparks with his own handmade sign encouraging disobedience toward unjust laws. Both Sparks and Chapel cited the lack of support for children once their born among their concerns and said the decision would hurt lower-income people most of all.

“This is a decision that hurts poor people and women and children,” Sparks said.

Surge of statements

[Murkowski defends federal gun bill, criticizes inaction]

The early morning decision released a flood of statements from politicians and organizations, as well as Alaskan candidates for office.

Former state lawmaker and gubernatorial candidate Les Gara has said he’s the only one in his race to fully support access to abortion. Gov. Mike Dunleavy, a Republican, has repeatedly stated his opposition to abortion, and his attorneys general have filed suits to block Medicaid funding of abortion in the state. Former Gov. Bill Walker, who is again seeking the office as an independent, said in a statement that if elected he would oppose any law that would erode abortion rights.

In an interview with the Empire Friday, Gara said Walker — who has said he’s personally against abortion but will protect a woman’s right to choose — had filed similar suits to block abortion funding, something the Alaska Supreme Court has found illegal.

“If I were Gov. Dunleavy or Gov. Walker, I would have fired those AGs,” Gara said. “I will never appoint an AG who doesn’t support a woman’s right to choose.”

In a statement Friday, the Walker campaign released a statement saying as governor Walker and his pick for lieutenant governor Heidi Drygas would support access to abortion in Alaska.

“Bill is personally pro-life, and Heidi is personally pro-choice, but we are aligned in our goal of protecting women and families in Alaska. “We also stand unified in upholding Alaska’s constitution, which has long guaranteed that a woman has the right to make her own reproductive decisions.”

Alaskan voters will be asked this year whether to hold a constitutional convention, which some in the state see as an opportunity to change Alaska’s constitution to prohibit abortion.

Congressional candidate and former Gov. Sarah Palin, a Republican who’s been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, released a statement Friday lauding the decision.

“I commend the Supreme Court Justices for their courage in righting a wrong that led to the death of millions of babies in the womb. At long last, this 50-year nationwide trail of death is over,” Palin said.

The end of Roe

The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years in a decision by its conservative majority to overturn Roe v. Wade. Friday’s outcome is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.

The decision, unthinkable just a few years ago, was the culmination of decades of efforts by abortion opponents, made possible by an emboldened right side of the court that has been fortified by three appointees of former President Donald Trump.

The ruling came more than a month after the stunning leak of a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito indicating the court was prepared to take this momentous step.

It puts the court at odds with a majority of Americans who favored preserving Roe, according to opinion polls.

Alito, in the final opinion issued Friday, wrote that Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 decision that reaffirmed the right to abortion, were wrong the day they were decided and must be overturned.

“We therefore hold that the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion. Roe and Casey must be overruled, and the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives,” Alito wrote.

Authority to regulate abortion rests with the political branches, not the courts, Alito wrote.

Joining Alito were Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. The latter three justices are Trump appointees. Thomas first voted to overrule Roe 30 years ago.

Chief Justice John Roberts would have stopped short of ending the abortion right, noting that he would have upheld the Mississippi law at the heart of the case, a ban on abortion after 15 weeks, and said no more.

Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — the diminished liberal wing of the court — were in dissent.

“With sorrow—for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection—we dissent,” they wrote.

The ruling is expected to disproportionately affect minority women who already face limited access to health care, according to statistics analyzed by The Associated Press.

Mississippi’s only abortion clinic, which is at the center of the case, continued to see patients Friday. Outside, men used a bullhorn to tell people inside the clinic that they would burn in hell. Clinic escorts wearing colorful vests used large stereo speakers to blast Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” at the protesters.

Mississippi is one of 13 states, mainly in the South and Midwest, that already have laws on the books that ban abortion in the event Roe is overturned. Another half-dozen states have near-total bans or prohibitions after 6 weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.

In roughly a half-dozen other states, the fight will be over dormant abortion bans that were enacted before Roe was decided in 1973 or new proposals to sharply limit when abortions can be performed, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.

More than 90% of abortions take place in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, and more than half are now done with pills, not surgery, according to data compiled by Guttmacher.

The decision came against a backdrop of public opinion surveys that find a majority of Americans oppose overturning Roe and handing the question of whether to permit abortion entirely to the states. Polls conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and others also have consistently shown about 1 in 10 Americans want abortion to be illegal in all cases. A majority are in favor of abortion being legal in all or most circumstances, but polls indicate many also support restrictions especially later in pregnancy.

The Biden administration and other defenders of abortion rights have warned that a decision overturning Roe also would threaten other high court decisions in favor of gay rights and even potentially, contraception.

The liberal justices made the same point in their joint dissent: The majority “eliminates a 50-year-old constitutional right that safeguards women’s freedom and equal station. It breaches a core rule-of-law principle, designed to promote constancy in the law. In doing all of that, it places in jeopardy other rights, from contraception to same-sex intimacy and marriage. And finally, it undermines the Court’s legitimacy.”

And Justice Clarence Thomas, the member of the court most open to jettisoning prior decisions, wrote a separate opinion in which he explicitly called on his colleagues to put the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage, gay sex and even contraception cases on the table.

But Alito contended that his analysis addresses abortion only. “Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion,” he wrote.

Whatever the intentions of the person who leaked Alito’s draft opinion, the conservatives held firm in overturning Roe and Casey.

In his opinion, Alito dismissed the arguments in favor of retaining the two decisions, including that multiple generations of American women have partly relied on the right to abortion to gain economic and political power.

Changing the makeup of the court has been central to the anti-abortion side’s strategy, as the dissenters archly noted. “The Court reverses course today for one reason and one reason only: because the composition of this Court has changed,” the liberal justices wrote.

Mississippi and its allies made increasingly aggressive arguments as the case developed, and two high-court defenders of abortion rights retired or died. The state initially argued that its law could be upheld without overruling the court’s abortion precedents.

Then-Gov. Phil Bryant signed the 15-week measure into law in March 2018, when Justices Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were still members of a five-justice majority that was mainly protective of abortion rights.

By early summer, Kennedy had retired and was replaced by Justice Brett Kavanaugh a few months later. The Mississippi law was blocked in lower federal courts.

But the state always was headed to the nation’s highest court. It did not even ask for a hearing before a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ultimately held the law invalid in December 2019.

By early September 2020, the Supreme Court was ready to consider the state’s appeal.

The court scheduled the case for consideration at the justices’ private conference on Sept. 29. But in the intervening weeks, Ginsburg died and Barrett was quickly nominated and confirmed without a single Democratic vote.

The stage now was set, although it took the court another half year to agree to hear the case.

By the time Mississippi filed its main written argument with the court in the summer, the thrust of its argument had changed and it was now calling for the wholesale overruling of Roe and Casey.

The first sign that the court might be receptive to wiping away the constitutional right to abortion came in late summer, when the justices divided 5-4 in allowing Texas to enforce a ban on the procedure at roughly six weeks, before some women even know they are pregnant. That dispute turned on the unique structure of the law, including its enforcement by private citizens rather than by state officials, and how it can be challenged in court.

But Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted in a searing dissent for the three liberal justices that their conservative colleagues refused to block “a flagrantly unconstitutional law” that “flouts nearly 50 years of federal precedents.” Roberts was also among the dissenters.

Then in December, after hearing additional arguments over whether to block the Texas law known as S.B. 8, the court again declined to do so, also by a 5-4 vote. “The clear purpose and actual effect of S. B. 8 has been to nullify this Court’s rulings,” Roberts wrote, in a partial dissent.

In their Senate hearings, Trump’s three high-court picks carefully skirted questions about how they would vote in any cases, including about abortion.

But even as Democrats and abortion rights supporters predicted Kavanaugh and Gorsuch would vote to upend abortion rights if confirmed, the two left at least one Republican senator with a different impression. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine predicted Gorsuch and Kavanaugh wouldn’t support overturning the abortion cases, based on private conversations she had with them when they were nominees to the Supreme Court.

Barrett was perhaps the most vocal opponent of abortion in her time as a law professor, before becoming a federal judge in 2017. She was a member of anti-abortion groups at Notre Dame University, where she taught law, and she signed a newspaper ad opposing “abortion on demand” and defending “the right to life from fertilization to natural death.” She promised to set aside her personal views when judging cases.

Trump, meanwhile, had predicted as a candidate that whoever he named to the court would “automatically” vote to overrule Roe.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire. Mark Sherman of the Associated Press contributed reporting to this article.

More in News

Mary Peltola responds to a question during a forum at the Kenai Visitor Center on Aug. 3, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. With less than two weeks to go before Alaska’s Aug. 16 election, the three candidates seeking to temporarily replace Congressman Don Young in Alaska’s U.S. House seat have made clear their positions on abortion. (Peninsula Clarion/Jake Dye)
Here’s where Alaska’s U.S. House candidates stand on access to abortion

Palin and Begich oppose congressional efforts to guarantee abortion rights, Peltola supports abortion access

The Sterling Highway crosses the Kenai River near the Russian River Campground on March 15, 2020, near Cooper Landing, Alaska. (Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Russian River Campground to be closed until June 2023 beginning next week

Resurfacing and reinforcement work will occur along about 1 mile of the Russian River Campground Road

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Hikers rescued near Cooper Landing

They became trapped in a steep ravine after taking a canoe over Kenai Lake and climbing a mountain, troopers say

Vials of empty monkeypox vaccines sit at a table at Seattle Central College in Seattle, Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. (Daniel Kim/The Seattle Times via AP)
State announces two-tiered system for monkeypox vaccine

Due to low availability, the monkeypox vaccine is administered only in response to potential exposure

Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, leads an informational town hall about ranked choice voting inside the Betty J. Glick Assembly Chambers on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Carpenter holds forum on ranked choice voting

Don’t “overthink it,” representative says

Raymond Bradbury preserves his salmon while dipnetting in the mouth of the Kenai River on Saturday, July 10, 2021. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai River dipnetting closed; Kasilof to close Sunday

The Kasilof River dipnet fishery is reportedly slow, but fish are being caught

Silver salmon hang in the Seward Boat Harbor during the 2018 Seward Silver Salmon Derby. (Photo courtesy of Seward Chamber of Commerce)
Seward Silver Salmon derby runs Aug. 13-21

Last year’s derby featured 1,800 contestants competing across eight days

Rayna Reynolds tends to her cow at the 4-H Agriculture Expo in Soldotna, Alaska on Aug. 5, 2022. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Animals take the stage at 4-H expo

Contestants were judged on the quality of the animal or showmanship of the handler

Emily Matthews and Andy Kowalczyk pose outside the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies headquarters on Friday, July 29, 2022, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Charlie Menke/Homer News)
AmeriCorps volunteers aid Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies

The 10-month commitment pushed them outside of comfort zones

Most Read