While local advocates in favor of abortion access loudly vented their outrage over the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Friday that overturned a national right to the procedure, Washington state’s anti-abortion advocates cheered the ruling in a rather subdued fashion.
Some issued statements of support after the court struck down Roe v. Wade, but there was no immediate celebration of this long-sought after conservative win, which gives each state the ability to set its own abortion laws.
That’s at least in part because state law enshrines the right to an abortion in Washington. The ruling doesn’t hold the same meaning here that it does in states such as Idaho, where a trigger law renders abortion illegal effective July 24. And that caveat resulted in a less enthusiastic response from some corners of the anti-abortion movement.
Esther Ripplinger, executive director of Human Life of Washington, an offshoot of the National Right to Life Committee that has long lobbied to make abortion illegal, called the monumental court decision “bittersweet.”
Ripplinger said her reaction to the ruling was “not so much joy, but gratefulness for justice. For me, it’s a time to commemorate the lives of unborn children, including my own … I’m wearing pink to commemorate the life of my unborn child Nina.”
Ripplinger was 19, living in Portland a few weeks away from starting college with plans to marry her boyfriend, when they learned she was pregnant. Her boyfriend’s parents insisted she get an abortion and she agreed. Ripplinger said she has been beset with regret ever since, leading to struggles to control her temper and overindulgence in alcohol during triggering times, like the anniversary of her abortion.
Even on a day when her side got the biggest win of its half-century fight against legal abortion, the rage surfaced in Ripplinger’s voice when she described the merits of legal abortion as “a trap” that isn’t helping women, but “pushing them off a cliff” toward the symptoms of trauma that follow.
“Bringing healing to the women and men involved in abortion who regret their decisions is part of my mission,” she said.
Some pregnancy centers and anti-abortion organizations reached Friday deadpanned responses. Step by Step is a pregnancy center in Puyallup that discourages abortion and provides services to new mothers when they opt to give birth. An employee who answered the phone declined to give her name and would only say “There’s not a big, strong reaction down here, honestly.”
Senate Minority Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, offered a generally neutral statement, noting the U.S. Supreme Court ruling will not affect the law in Washington state. “Better support for pregnant women who choose to give birth should be a common goal for all of us, regardless of our politics,” he said. “Compassion and empathy, rather than hostility, should be the universal approach. I’m hoping this is how we all move forward.”
In a written statement signed by Seattle Archbishop Paul D. Etienne and others, the Washington State Catholic Conference commended the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe and said the Catholic Church welcomes “an opportunity to reduce the number of abortions in the U.S. and build a culture of life.”
Julie Barrett, founder of Conservative Ladies of Washington, said, “I am pleased with the decision.” Overturning Roe is in line with the Constitution, she said, because it returns the abortion issue to elected state leaders. Though she noted that means abortion remains legal in this state.
For Barrett, the court’s decision doesn’t limit women’s choices. “Motherhood is not obligatory,” Barrett said. “We are not educating people about the choices they have, like adoption. You don’t hear people talking about how to prevent pregnancies in the first place.
“I had an unplanned pregnancy at a very early age. I was 15 minutes away from an abortion, but I backed off. Now that kid is 26.”
Barrett was a bit more willing to note this milestone than other advocates in Washington. She said, “People I have been in contact with are really happy. Christians around the country have been praying for this for 50 years. It is a great cause for celebration.”