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Oregon political leaders react to end of Roe v. Wade

Salami McConneha of Camas, Wash., uses her body to convey her stance on abortion rights. McConneha was one of hundreds gathered in downtown Portland to protest a leaked draft opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court indicating they would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, Tuesday, May 3, 2022.
Kristyna Wentz-Graff
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Salami McConneha of Camas, Wash., uses her body to convey her stance on abortion rights. McConneha was one of hundreds gathered in downtown Portland to protest a leaked draft opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court indicating they would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, Tuesday, May 3, 2022.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday that the U.S. Constitution does not protect the right to abortion, striking down nearly 50 years of legal precedent.

With the 6-3 ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, the highest court in the nation determined that a person’s right to have an abortion is up to the states, and therefore not protected nationally.

Oregon, which has the fewest abortion restrictions in the country, will not see any legal impact from the ruling. However, it could see an increase in abortions sought by non-residents, such as those who come into Oregon from the Idaho border.

New abortion legislation in Idaho is slated to take effect 30 days from Friday, as the Supreme Court’s decision triggered it. The law will make it a felony to perform an abortion, or attempt to perform one, in that state. Idaho will only allow abortions if a pregnant person’s life needs saving or the pregnancy was from rape or incest, and then only if the person previously reported the rape or incest to law enforcement and can provide a report from a doctor.

The Supreme Court ruling spurred immediate reaction from Oregonians, including several who currently hold or are seeking elected office.

Oregon’s U.S. senators, both Democrats, tweeted their disagreement over the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision. Sen. Ron Wyden called the justices who ruled in the majority “radical,” while Sen. Jeff Merkley labeled them “extremist.” In a recent poll, most Americans identified themselves as “pro-choice.”

U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, the only woman who represents Oregon in Congress, wrote the decision is “infuriating, heartbreaking, and dangerous.”

U.S. Rep. Cliff Bentz, the only Republican who represents Oregon in Congress, wrote of the ruling that it was “a momentous decision. Every human life is sacred.”

Democratic Congressional candidates commented on the decision, while using it as an opportunity to fundraise. Jaime McLeod-Skinner, who unseated longtime U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, warned “low-income, rural, women of color, and LGBTQ+ Americans will face the worst consequences of this decision,” and urged people to support her so she could fight to codify access to abortion care into federal law.

Democratic state Rep. Andrea Salinas, who is running for the state’s newly created 6th Congressional District, said the decision “will not result in fewer abortions,” instead it will just mean “access to a safe, legal abortion will disappear in far too many places.”

House Speaker Dan Rayfield made it clear Democratic lawmakers in Oregon will be working to further improve abortion access in the state in upcoming legislative sessions. Rayfield, D-Corvallis, said it was an “incredibly dark day in American history.” The decision, he said, “will harm millions of people, most specifically people of color and low-income individuals, and worsen existing inequality.”

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said in a statement, “Abortion is health care, and no matter who you are or where you come from, Oregon doesn’t turn away anyone seeking health care. Period. Let me be clear: You cannot ban abortion, you can only ban safe abortions — and this disgraceful Supreme Court decision will undoubtedly put many people’s lives at risk, in addition to stripping away a constitutional right that disproportionately affects women and has been settled law for most of our lifetimes.”

In 2017, Brown signed a law codifying reproductive health services and the right to an abortion into state law. This year, the state Legislature approved $15 million to be spent on helping community-based organizations expand access to abortion across the state.

In a joint statement issued Friday, Brown and the Democratic governors of California and Washington announced a coordinated effort to strengthen legal protections for abortion providers and patients who travel to the West Coast from states where the practice is banned.

Three major candidates are running for Oregon governor, all of whom are women: Democratic nominee Tina Kotek, Republican nominee Christine Drazan and unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson. Each took to Twitter to release reaction statements.


OPB reporters Amelia Templeton and Lauren Dake contributed to this story.

This is a developing story and may be updated.

Copyright 2022 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Meagan Cuthill