Georgians react to the abortion ruling

A person looks at materials at the National Right to Life booth at the National Right to Life Convention at the Airport Marriott Hotel in Atlanta on Friday, June 24, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Combined ShapeCaption
A person looks at materials at the National Right to Life booth at the National Right to Life Convention at the Airport Marriott Hotel in Atlanta on Friday, June 24, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Some say it’s time to mobilize and strategize ; others applaud the decision “because it’s not healthy for women.”

For some, it was an answer to their prayers.

For others it was heartbreaking news.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling upheld Mississippi’s ban on all abortions after 15 weeks, overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

The ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization had been expected since May when a draft opinion was leaked in an unprecedented incident.

Polls show most Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, but many are open to restrictions, according to the Pew Research Center.

In the most recent Pew poll, 61% of U.S. adults say abortion should be legal all or most of the time, while 37% say it should be illegal all or most of the time.

Cindy Purcell, who leads the PACE (Post-Abortion Care and Education) Ministry at Perimeter Church in Johns Creek applauded the court’s decision.

Purcell had an abortion when she was “barely 16.” The father was much older and drove her across state lines to have an abortion. She said the experience affected her emotionally because she felt damaged and her self-esteem was destroyed.

Today, the mother of two adult children, helps other women who have had abortions work through their grief, pain and to find forgiveness.

Kenyette Tisha Barnes, co-founder of #MuteRKelly, national director of Mothering Justice and the mother of three said the ruling left her heartbroken.,

“I believe that abortion is within the continuum of reproductive healthcare. I also believe that abortions will continue despite the Supreme Court’s ruling.” Barnes told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Prior to Roe, unsafe and illegal abortions occurred, and women died. I want to be clear about that. Women died.”

Barnes also feels that the ruling will have a greater impact for Black women.

“When abortion access is eroded, Black women suffer the most. What we’re going to see is an unequal distribution of services,” Barnes explained. “There’s so much that this decision causes, and the ripple effect is astronomical.”

Lisa Diane White, a Black women’s health activist, said the decision “broke her heart. I was always hoping that we would prevail.”

Combined ShapeCaption
Lisa Diane White, a Black women’s health activist, said the decision “broke her heart."

Credit: Contributed

Lisa Diane White, a Black women’s health activist, said the decision “broke her heart."

Credit: Contributed

Combined ShapeCaption
Lisa Diane White, a Black women’s health activist, said the decision “broke her heart."

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

“This is just devastating for Black women, for all women. I think we’ve lost an opportunity for any type of body autonomy. They don’t want us to have sex education in school, they’ve cut off family planning. This (abortion) is an option that women seek when they are desperate. It’s not an option for birth control, it’s an option on when and how to have children.”

White said she worries about women who don’t have the means to travel out of state for the procedure and will seek out other ways that can lead to major health consequences - and even death. She’s also concerned about the criminalization of women who decide to end a pregnancy.

“I don’t think this is a decision about Black women having babies. They already thought we had too many babies. They didn’t care enough about how we care for our children outside of the womb.”

Bernice King, CEO of the King Center, tweeted that the Supreme Court’s ruling “lacks wisdom. We can find a pathway that both respects life and choice. It may not be easy, but if we have the will, we can find the way.”

Aparna Bhattacharyya, executive director of Raksha, a Georgia-based nonprofit that works in the South Asian community, said people need to “breathe, strategize and mobilize because this is not the first time when our rights have been challenged, especially in Georgia. We need to remember that we have more power and resources than we have had in the past, to fight this.”

Still, Bhattacharyya said " this is very scary for all of us. We fear many of our rights are being chipped away.”

She’s particularly worried about immigrant survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. Raksha works with South Asian and other immigrant survivors of these types of abuse.

“Many survivors might have language barriers, no medical insurance or fewer resources to travel. There is more of a travel risk for survivors who might not have immigration status based on being trafficked or abused " The ruling, she said, “could be another barrier to many survivors leaving an abusive relationship or for girls who are survivors of incest and sexual assault.”

Many worry about the impact on a woman’s health and on poverty rates.

Linda Goler Blount, an epidemiologist and the CEO of the nonprofit Black Women’s Health Imperative, was not surprised by the decision itself, but the news still shocked her. She views it as an intentional political choice to devalue women, strip them of their right to decide and deny them of full control of their bodies. She is worried for younger generations.

“I’m really concerned about what could be the devastating mental health effects of getting this message over and over again that you are not worthy,” she expressed.

She wrote about her concerns in an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times.

For Black women, wrote, Goler Blount the decision " drepresents something even more sinister. For us, losing access to legal abortion could spell the difference between life and death...” If the past is any guide, ending the right to abortion will spark a public health crisis for Black women defined by more maternal deaths, higher rates of poverty and greater inequality overall.”

Gigi Pedraza, executive director for Latino Community Fund Georgia, thought of Georgia’s high infant mortality rate and the inequities that underserved and underinvested communities, including the Latino community, will continue to reckon with.

“When people need to seek needed care out of state, it is time they are not in school learning, they are not working and supporting their families, we are not with those we love and we spend funds they could be using for food, rent or school supplies,” Pedraza commented. “The vast and long-term implications of the Supreme Court decision will be felt everywhere across sectors and the country.”

Dr. Mimi Zieman and two other Atlanta ob/gyns at a pro-choice press conference Friday lambasted the ruling and its coming impact in Georgia in cases when a doctor has mounting concern for the woman’s health.

Those can include a woman with end-stage kidney disease and pre-eclampsia, or a woman whose membrane ruptures before the embryo is viable, they said.

”These kinds of laws are really freaking our profession out because they are afraid that they are going to intervene to protect the woman’s health,” even to save the life of the mother, “and then they feel at risk of criminalization,” Zieman said. “Women will die as a result of this.”

Others, though, were solidly behind the ruling and are making plans to help mothers and children.

Some organizations, individuals and churches have been preparing for this day for a long time, said Karen LaBarr, president of Choose Life of Georgia.

She said she had hoped for this ruling, but it also means work ahead.

“There will be increased demand for the services and assistance both before and after birth,” she said. “So organizations and individuals and churches that are already in that space have been planning for a while to be ready for expansion.”

The Rev. Jentezen Franklin, senior pastor of Free Chapel, a megachurch with several locations including Gainesville and Midtown Atlanta, called it a " a remarkable answer to the prayers of millions of people for decades.”

In a statement, the megachurch pastor said he had “honestly never dreamed in my lifetime I would see this happen. We do not gloat or dare say anything but praise to our God for this courageous and just decision by The Supreme Court. Now we must support, love and demonstrate God’s grace and goodness to would-be mothers and the precious children this decision has rescued.”

Atlanta Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, praised the ruling.

He said no matter how the court ruled on Friday, the archdiocese would never “stop working to protect women and their babies. “Whether or not abortion is legal, we want women to know that we are here to support you, to accompany you and to love you and your babies,” he said in a statement. “This support goes beyond the sidewalk outside the clinic. It goes beyond the delivery room and it goes beyond those first days after a baby is born.

Staff writer Ariel Hart contributed to this story.