'It could happen anywhere': Quincy residents protest Roe v. Wade draft opinion

·8 min read

QUINCY – Mothers fighting for the rights of their children, grandparents who remember a time before Roe v. Wade, and young people who've never known a world without legal access to abortion came together at Quincy City Hall on Tuesday night to protest a leaked draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion that would overturn the landmark decision just ahead of its 50th anniversary.

The group March Forward Quincy organized the "Rally for Roe" at the Hancock-Adams Common in front of city hall at the same time thousands of other groups were gathering nationwide. News broke late Monday night that the high court is potentially poised to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which established a constitutional right to abortion.

"I see older women who have fought this fight before. I see millennials and I see Gen Zers who have seen the clock turn back," Melissa Shapiro, who organized the rally, said. "Over half of the women in the United States aren't as lucky as we are (in Massachusetts). It's just devastating."

Carrying signs with phrases like "Abort this draft" and "Forced birth is not pro life," some were emotional and others stood stone faced as they discussed the potential for severely restricted abortion access in the years to come.

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Anne Meyerson, of Quincy, stood with a sign bearing a coat hanger that read "We will never go back." She said her father-in-law was orphaned as a young boy when his mother died from an unsafe, illegal abortion.

"People forget what it was like," Meyerson said. "Fifty years later, I never thought we'd have to have this fight again."

Anne Meyerson, left, and Kristina Demeo, right, both of Quincy, join a rally in front of Quincy City Hall protesting the U.S. Supreme Court's draft opinion to overturn abortion rights, Tuesday, May 3, 2022.
Anne Meyerson, left, and Kristina Demeo, right, both of Quincy, join a rally in front of Quincy City Hall protesting the U.S. Supreme Court's draft opinion to overturn abortion rights, Tuesday, May 3, 2022.

Cindy Roche-Cotter held a sign that read "My body my ..." and her husband, Mike Cotter, stood to her left with a sign reading "Choice." The Cotters are parents, grandparents and nurses who said they worry about the impacts illegal abortions will have on future generations of women.

"It could happen here," Roche-Cotter said of losing access. "It could happen anywhere."

Kerri Sheehan, a Quincy mother, brought her two children to the rally. Her young daughter held a sign she made reading "Bans off our bodies."

"If I don't fight for their rights, they'll have to be fighting for them 10 to 15 years down the line," she said. "I'm lucky to live in Massachusetts, but what if I move someday, or what if they move? The people who aren't so lucky should still have equal access to health care."

Where the Supreme Court stands on abortion

The Supreme Court has not yet issued its ruling in the case challenging the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationally, but a draft opinion obtained by Politico shows a majority vote to strike it down.

"Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences," Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which Politico posted online Monday night. "And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division."

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed Tuesday that the document was authentic but said it "does not represent a decision by the court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case."

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While the draft does not necessarily reflect where the high court will land – and it does not change the current legality of abortion care – an ultimate decision to overturn Roe v. Wade would end access to legal abortion in several states, including ones that have so-called "trigger" bans that will take place if Roe is no longer in place.

The Supreme Court is expected to release its final opinion on the matter in June or July.

"I believe that a woman’s right to choose is fundamental," President Joe Biden said Tuesday. "Roe has been the law of the land for almost 50 years, and basic fairness and the stability of our law demand that it not be overturned."

Laura Bonetzky Joseph, of Hingham, right, addresses a rally protesting the U.S. Supreme Court's draft opinion to overturn abortion rights in front of Quincy City Hall, Tuesday, May 3, 2022.
Laura Bonetzky Joseph, of Hingham, right, addresses a rally protesting the U.S. Supreme Court's draft opinion to overturn abortion rights in front of Quincy City Hall, Tuesday, May 3, 2022.

Biden said he directed the White House's Gender Policy Council and legal counsel to "prepare options" for an administration response following passage of a law in Texas and other states that bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

"We will be ready when any ruling is issued," he said.

U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, who represents Quincy, said the original ruling in Roe v. Wade was decided by an "independent judiciary whose decisions are solely guided by facts and the law."

"While I understand that the draft opinion may not be final, its misguided reasoning represents an abrupt and wrong-headed departure from the basic constitutional protections identified by Roe. ... If the Supreme Court is to remain a credible arbiter of constitutional law, I strongly believe that Roe v. Wade must remain the law of the land," he said in a statement.

Marjie Jordan, left, and her daughter Jane Esterquest, both of Quincy, join the rally protesting the U.S. Supreme Court's draft opinion to overturn abortion rights in front of Quincy City Hall, Tuesday, May 3, 2022.
Marjie Jordan, left, and her daughter Jane Esterquest, both of Quincy, join the rally protesting the U.S. Supreme Court's draft opinion to overturn abortion rights in front of Quincy City Hall, Tuesday, May 3, 2022.

Abortion will still be accessible in Massachusetts

Even if the Supreme Court does overturn Roe v. Wade, abortion will remain legal in Massachusetts up to – and in some cases, beyond – 24 weeks under the ROE Act passed by the Legislature in 2020.

In the years leading up to a potential conservative-leaning Supreme Court, several state leaders vowed Massachusetts would remain a safe space to access women's health care.

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"If SCOTUS does overturn Roe, it would upend families and rob patients of their bodily autonomy," Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, tweeted Monday. "Massachusetts will be a leader across this country and stand for compassion, care, and respect when others won’t."

Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, said the decision would be a "massive setback" for women in states without laws protecting abortion access. Baker vetoed the ROE Act in December 2020 but was overruled by the Legislature.

Phoebe Laurie, 2, and her mom, Danielle Laurie, of Quincy, protest the U.S. Supreme Court's draft opinion to overturn abortion rights during a rally in front of Quincy City Hall, Tuesday, May 3, 2022.
Phoebe Laurie, 2, and her mom, Danielle Laurie, of Quincy, protest the U.S. Supreme Court's draft opinion to overturn abortion rights during a rally in front of Quincy City Hall, Tuesday, May 3, 2022.

Rebecca Hart Holder, the executive director of the pro-choice group Reproductive Equity Now, said the draft opinion is no surprise given the political makeup of the court. Her organization has been working since 2020 to prepare for the precedent to be overturned.

Those efforts include getting the ROE Act passed and a $500,000 earmark in the state budget for three groups that provide money to help pay for abortions and ancillary costs, including the Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund in Cambridge.

Holder said they are taking a "hard look" at what they will do next, including what infrastructure they need to build or advocate for in states that have limited or outlawed abortions.

South Shore leaders split on abortion

Shapiro, of March Forward Quincy, said her group plans to still be an active voice in the abortion debate despite its relatively small impact in Massachusetts compared to other states.

"Here in Quincy, we have some elected officials who have been very staunchly and publicly anti-choice," she said. "Even though they don't necessarily have the power to put things into effect in Quincy, we will still be there to speak up."

Protesting the U.S. Supreme Court's draft opinion to overturn abortion rights during a rally in front of Quincy City Hall are, from left, Laura Bonetzky Joseph, of Hingham; North Quincy High School student Yumiko Chow; and Sal Balsamo, of Quincy, on Tuesday, May 3, 2022.
Protesting the U.S. Supreme Court's draft opinion to overturn abortion rights during a rally in front of Quincy City Hall are, from left, Laura Bonetzky Joseph, of Hingham; North Quincy High School student Yumiko Chow; and Sal Balsamo, of Quincy, on Tuesday, May 3, 2022.

Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch publicly left the Democratic Party in 2018 after then-Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said there was no room in the party for people who are "pro-life." Koch changed his registration to independent shortly after Perez's comments, and often refers to his Catholic faith often when explaining his stance.

"As mayor, I represent everyone in the city and I have been encouraging people, especially these last few years, to be respectful of everyone's opinions," Koch said Tuesday. "People who know me know I am pro-life, but I respect other people's opinions and I would hope people respect mine. ... At the end of the day, the issue rests in the Legislature, not in the mayor's office."

Several South Shore representatives voted against the ROE Act, including Republican state Sen. Patrick O'Connor, of Weymouth, and Democratic Sen. Walter Timilty, of Milton.

"Senator O'Connor voted against the final version of the ROE Act due to provisions that expanded access to third trimester abortions and removed the requirement of parental consent for minors to obtain abortions," a spokesperson from his office said Tuesday.

Timilty did not respond to a request for comment.

Quincy's state senators and representatives largely supported the act, including Sen. John Keenan and Rep. Bruce Ayers, who on Tuesday said he "supports a woman’s right to choose."

Massachusetts House Speaker Ronald Mariano, of Quincy, right, with Senate President Karen Spilka on Tuesday, May 3, 2022.
Massachusetts House Speaker Ronald Mariano, of Quincy, right, with Senate President Karen Spilka on Tuesday, May 3, 2022.

House Speaker Ron Mariano, of Quincy, joined other top Democrats and representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union on the steps of the State House on Tuesday and said House lawmakers have advanced a nearly $50 billion budget proposal that includes $500,000 to expand abortion access.

"They're coming after gay marriage. They're coming after all the rights that we fought so hard to install in our laws," Mariano said, knocking policies pursued by some Republican governors. "Pretty soon, the only laws that will matter will be for white old guys like me. Everything else will be gone. If you don't believe that that is the goal, I think you better start paying attention."

Shapiro encouraged pro-choice residents to call legislators, donate to pro-choice causes and get involved in elections across the country where abortion is a hot-button issue.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg," said John Peterson, of Quincy, a delegate to the state Democratic convention. "We have lost the Supreme Court. ... We have just as many states fighting women's rights as LGBT rights. We have to stop this here. If we all get together, we can do it."

Representatives of the Massachusetts Republican Party, the Massachusetts Democratic Party and the Quincy Republican City Committee did not respond to requests for comment.

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Patriot Ledger reporter Wheeler Cowperthwaite and State House News Service reporter Katie Lannan contributed to this report. Reach Mary Whitfill at mwhitfill@patriotledger.com.

This article originally appeared on The Patriot Ledger: Quincy residents protest draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade