Reading a draft Supreme Court opinion that portends the potential end of legal abortion in much of the United States, Jennifer Martinez said to herself that people need to hear stories like hers.
So Martinez, 34 years old and 39 weeks pregnant, stood in Seattle in front of the governor, attorney general, members of Congress, dozens of cameras and hundreds of others and talked about the two abortions she had 13 years ago.
“I was not ready to be a parent,” said Martinez, who lives in Olympia, works in marketing and is the board president of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates. “I was in a new relationship, not financially stable and I was most definitely not emotionally prepared.”
Her decision, Martinez said, was both intimate and huge and not one that can be made by elected officials or the courts.
“I’m not unique,” she said. “It’s something that we’re not supposed to talk about, or just kind of sweep under the rug when so many of us have this shared experience.”
Martinez spoke at a quickly organized Tuesday rally with many of Washington’s top elected leaders who raged against the leaked draft of a Supreme Court decision, promised that abortion would remain legal in Washington and pledged that women from more conservative states could travel here for abortions.
Washington’s Democratic leaders pleaded with voters for support and promised to fight, even as there is no immediate avenue to counteract a ruling that, if finalized, would spell the end of Roe v. Wade.
Others, like Martinez, spoke about the abortions they’d had.
“Washington state was a pro-choice state, Washington state is a pro-choice state, and we are going to fight like hell to keep Washington a pro-choice state,” Gov. Jay Inslee said at the rally at Seattle’s Kerry Park.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday confirmed that the draft opinion, published Monday night by Politico, was authentic, but stressed it is not a final decision and does not represent “the final position of any member.”
If Roe is ultimately overturned, abortion will remain legal in Washington.
Washington has, for more than three decades, guaranteed abortion access, regardless of the status of Roe. Initiative 120, passed narrowly by voters in 1991, stated that “Every woman has the fundamental right to choose or refuse to have an abortion” before viability.
Inslee said he would “explore” further codifying abortion rights into Washington law, through potential changes to the state Constitution, although doing so would require legislative supermajorities that Democrats do not currently have.
He said Washington would seek to provide “sanctuary” for residents from other states who seek care in Washington, “because we will not allow the tentacles of Texas to get into Washington state.”
Last fall, Texas passed a law that the Supreme Court has allowed to stand that enables private citizens to sue anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson, at the Kerry Park rally, referenced similar legislation under consideration in Missouri that would allow lawsuits even if the abortion is performed in another state.
“My office will fight back against this extremism whenever it threatens Washingtonians,” Ferguson said. “We will challenge it in court and I can assure you, we will win.”
On the steps of the U.S. Capitol, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., referenced “50 years of Republican nominees” to the court coming before the Senate “and saying they believe this is settled law.”
“They are overturning your constitutional right,” Cantwell said. “And we in America, the women of America, will march to protect these rights on behalf of all of us.”
On Tuesday evening at the Capitol campus in Olympia, several hundred demonstrators gathered, holding signs with slogans such as “Keep abortion legal” and “I’m not ovary-acting.”
Former state Rep. Beth Doglio, a Democrat from Olympia, urged people to share their stories about abortion because “we need to talk about this.” And then Doglio, who described herself as a private person, shared that she once had an abortion.
“It was the right choice for me and my family at the time; I made that choice based on economic and emotional reasons,” she said.
“It’s a very private thing, but I am sharing that with you today because it’s important that we recognize that I got that right, and I want every single womb-wielder to have that right for the rest of our time,” Doglio added.
Sen. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, told a story from early in his career, when he was a teacher in Pasco in the 1960s. Two of his students were dating at the time, he said, and got pregnant. They were in love, but both had college ahead of them.
“So I and a couple of other faculty members paid for them to fly to Seattle to have a safe abortion,” he said.
Like others, Hunt urged rallygoers to vote and stay involved in politics. He pointed to the Capitol building, saying: “That building controls our future.”
At another downtown Seattle rally Tuesday evening, socialist City Councilmember Kshama Sawant decried the actions of elected Democrats as insufficient.
With several tables set up around Westlake Park to help activists organize school walkouts and labor strikes, and with an emphasis on the May 14 day of action promoted by Planned Parenthood, Sawant called for a movement of protests akin to that in the 1970s.
“It was not because of the leadership of the Democratic Party. It was the massive combined pressure of the women’s movement, civil rights movement, anti-war movement, labor movement and the militant strike action by union workers,” she said. “That is exactly the kind of fear we need to instill right now in the ruling class.”
Hundreds marched from the rally to Cal Anderson Park, demanding access to abortions and promising defiance to get it.
“No matter what the court decides, the fight will continue and abortion will continue because they are essential to our health and life,” Helen Gilbert, an organizer with Radical Women, said. “Unjust laws will be broken. You can count on that.”
At the Kerry Park rally, officials practically seethed with anger at the content of the draft opinion.
“If this opinion comes to pass, this will be the most horrific and unprecedented rollback of women’s rights in our history,” U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, of Seattle, said. “The leaked draft opinion is a radical, outrageous and deeply dangerous opinion, the culmination by the way of decades of insidious work from Republicans and the extreme right who have rigged the system in their favor.”
Jayapal wrote in the New York Times three years ago about her own abortion.
“I hadn’t talked about it for 15 years, my mother didn’t even know,” she said Tuesday. “I spoke about it not because I wanted to, but because I felt that it was absolutely critical that we tell the stories.”
Rep. Marilyn Strickland, of Tacoma, said that the opinion could open the door for a further rollback of individual rights previously established by the Supreme Court, mentioning specifically interracial and gay marriage.
“Make no mistake, this is a door that has swung wide open,” Strickland said.
King County Executive Dow Constantine keyed on a section of the opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, that abortion was not a right “deeply rooted in the nation’s history and tradition.”
“You want me to start rattling off the outrages and atrocities that are deeply rooted in our nation’s history and tradition?” Constantine said, mentioning restrictive marriage and voting laws and slavery. “That is an insult to centuries of progress that we have made together.”