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Ruling overturning Roe v. Wade will have significant impacts, but won’t change rights in Washington or at the UW


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Today, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a decision anticipated since early May. This ruling ushers in dramatic changes to reproductive freedom and access to abortion, rights that have for decades been largely understood as settled law in our country. It is profoundly distressing and concerning for many members of our community, including myself, and raises equally troubling concerns about what this may mean for other human rights that we believed were established and inviolable.

It is also important to recognize that college-aged, low income, and BIPOC women or those who can bear children will be disproportionately affected by this change, and I want to take this opportunity to state clearly that access to abortion as part of the continuum of reproductive care will not change in Washington, where abortion rights are protected by state law. It is important to acknowledge that there are those in our community whose deeply held religious beliefs about when life begins leads them to oppose abortion, and we should respect their right to those beliefs. But, we are fortunate to live in a state that recognizes that whether to access abortion services is an individual choice to be made between the person who is pregnant and their doctor and/or family, and that this choice is essential to the welfare and dignity not only for those able to bear children, but for us all. I applaud the new multistate commitment to abortion access being enacted by Governors Jay Inslee, Kate Brown and Gavin Newsom.

Additionally, as UW Medicine has shared on their website, our hospitals and clinics will continue our current practice of broad access to abortion for patients, as well as seeking to minimize any impact this change will have on our teaching programs and the provision of abortion care for our clinicians, faculty and staff. Abortion services are part of essential medical care for people in need and denying access worsens inequities and threatens everyone’s dignity and autonomy.

This ruling represents a significant rollback of women’s right to make their own decisions about their health care and many of us believe that it profoundly undermines a basic human right to bodily autonomy. Over the last half-century, women, LGBTQIA+ people and their allies have led the fight for gender equality, and abortion access has been a key tenet of that fight. Today’s decision will likely further the societal fracturing and political polarization that has made progress so difficult in recent times. But as I looked out at the faces of our graduates during commencement ceremonies, listened to our student speakers and spoke with student leaders, it left no doubt in my mind but that progress is possible and will continue, even if not in a straight line. Progress toward freedom, equality and universal human rights will take work by all of us, but I am confident we are equal to the challenge.

Information about other resources are included in the sidebar, including how to access help during this distressing time.