UPDATE 7:19 p.m.: Clayton County Democrats’ Sukari Johnson statement
Georgia’s 2019 “heartbeat” bill could take effect at any moment after the U.S. Supreme Court voted 6-3 to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark ruling that a woman has the right to choose abortion Friday. Beyond abortion, the court’s ruling shows it is poised to roll back contraception for married couples, the right of consenting adults to engage in private sexual activity, and gay marriage.
The decision came down as National Right to Life holds its convention at the Atlanta Airport Marriott in College Park.
Pro-choice demonstrators have been gathering at Liberty Plaza across from the Gold Dome and at CNN Center throughout the afternoon and a march is set to take place from CNN Center to the Gold Dome this evening.
Gov. Brian Kemp issued a warning against any violence or property damage during demonstrations:
Georgia Secretary of State Chris Carr filed a request that the 11th U.S. District Appeals Court reverse a lower court decision in SisterSong, et al v. Kemp, et al., blocking the 2019 law, which would ban abortion after six weeks in Georgia “immediately.” Many women do not know they are pregnant at that point.
Voting to overturn Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Amy Coney Barrett, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh.
In their dissent, Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan wrote, “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.
Roberts, in a separate opinion, said the court should not have overturned Roe v. Wade but that he agreed with the majority on the Mississippi case.
Today’s Supreme Court ruling, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, involved a law banning abortion after 15 weeks except in cases of severe fetal abnormality or medical emergenc—no exceptions for women who had been raped, no exceptions for girls who had been victims of incest.
I was a very young & green reporter when #SCOTUS decided Roe. The vote then was 7-2, w mainly Republican appointees. Even conservative Sen. Barry Goldwater supported abortion rights. The amazing thing was that Roe wasn't the lead story. LBJ's death was. https://t.co/rLntXu6AV5— Nina Totenberg (@NinaTotenberg) June 24, 2022
Last month, a draft of today’s decision was leaked, indicating the court was considering other cases that affect issues like same-sex marriage (Obergfell v. Hodges). Today, Justice Clarence Thomas—whose wife, Ginny, has been implicated in events surrounding the June 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol—said the high court “should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell” because, he asserted, those decisions were “demonstrably erroneous.”
- Griswold v. Connecticut (1965): guarantees married couples’ right to contraception without government interference
- Lawrence v. Texas (2003): overturned Bowers v. Hardwick, better known as Georgia’s “sodomy law” outlawing oral and anal sex (not just for LGBTQ people). In that case, two gay men were having sex in one man’s home when police broke in on them. Lawrence found that sodomy laws violated the Due Process Clause.
- Obergfell v. Hodges: the Fourteenth Amendment forbids states from withholding marriage licenses from same-sex couples
National Center for Lesbian Rights Director Imani Rupert-Gordon said, “It is impossible to overstate how dangerous this is. The U.S. Supreme Court has done a complete about-face and held that individuals do not have the right to decide for themselves whether or not to continue a pregnancy. The majority opinion states that liberty, supposedly guaranteed to us all by the Constitution, is defined by an era when women of any race could not vote, hold property, or legally exist apart from their husbands, and when the citizenship rights of Black women and other women of color were nonexistent.”
Today the Supreme Court overturned 50 years of precedent around abortion rights, directly impacting all people — including LGBTQ+ folks.— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) June 24, 2022
Justice Thomas also had some alarming things to say about Obergefell v. Hodges and Lawrence v. Texas but he only spoke for himself.
The ruling came as National Right to Life holds its convention in Cobb County. When news of the decision came, “There was stunned silence….for all of a half-second,” according to anti-abortion activist Dave Andrusko. “Some people wept, others looked toward heaven, and everyone clapped. My wife, Lisa, and I looked at each other and smiled.Less than an hour later, I was taking notes on ‘Preparing for the 2022 elections.'”
The Clayton Crescent attempted to reach the PAC Clinic in Forest Park for comment Friday afternoon. An operator who answered the phone said they had been very busy with a lot of calls; we left a message with the executive director to call back.
Rep. Bee Nguyen, who will take on Carr for the Georgia Attorney General’s seat this November, tweeted, “Our basic freedom to exist is at stake”:
Our basic freedom to exist is at stake. pic.twitter.com/62DbDmXB6g— Bee Nguyen 🐝 (@BeeForGeorgia) June 24, 2022
Clayton County Democrats President Sukari Johnson called the decision “a devastating moment for our country,” adding that “Our fundamental rights are at stake in the upcoming midterm elections.”
“Republican candidates up and down the ticket in Georgia have promised if elected to make abortion illegal with no exceptions for rape, incest, or danger to the life of a mother—and even change women and doctors with a crime if they have or perform an abortion,” Johnson said. “Make no mistake, elections for governor, U.S. Senate, attorney general, state House, and state Senate will determine if cruel new punishments on women and families will be put in place at the federal or state level. The only way to protect abortion rights in Georgia is by electing strong pro-choice leaders who will safeguard our freedoms, including Stacey Abrams, Rev. Raphael Warnick, Jen Jordan, and Democrats up and down the ballot.”
We also asked Clayton County Republican Party President Garrett Ashley, who also is a vocal anti-abortion activist, for comment. We’ll update when we hear back.
U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, who was vice president of public policy at NARAL Southeast before she ran for Congress, told GPB’s Riley Bunch that she was outside the Supreme Court.
“There’s a few thousand people in front of the Supreme Court, lots of security,” she said. “Capitol Police escorted a group of us over to let us know that they could take us over and keep us safe during our moment to express ourselves in front of the Supreme Court. But today is a very emotional day in D.C.”
As of press time, abortion is still legal in Georgia.