Local Officials Respond to Supreme Court Decisions

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A protest outside the Supreme Court June 13, as groups awaited the final decision. E. O'Gorek/CCN

Friday morning the Supreme Court issued a ruling on the highly anticipated Roe v. Wade decision overturning decades old precedent. The draft opinion, leaked in early May, drew significant attention and, since the leak, the court has been a site of protest.

Outside the Court 

Security measures, including the installation of a non-scalable fence, have been implemented around the perimeter. Both protesters and people celebrating the decision have gathered again this morning outside the court.

Shortly after the draft opinion was released, hundreds of pro-choice protesters gathered outside to exercise their first amendment rights. “Protesters are allowed to peacefully demonstrate, however they must follow the officer’s instructions so that everyone stays safe,” US Capitol Police (USCP) tweeted.

Shortly before noon, Capitol Square was being shut down to the public. Congressional staff reported that some offices were sending Hill staffers home out of an abundance of caution as protests grew.

Voices

On site, Jodi, a tourist, said her tour group passed the court building on a previous visit the District and wanted to come back to protest.

“It means a lot to me, I have a daughter and a daughter in-law and I want them protected,” Jodi said. “No man and no law should be able to tell us what we can do with our bodies.”

Jan, a tourist from Florida, was visiting DC when the Draft opinion was leaked and took time from her vacation to protest. She carried a homemade sign that read “don’t dictate my morals.”

“Women’s rights are important and the right to control our bodies is important,” Jan said. “I’m a lawyer, I believe in the constitution and I am very sad and very angry at what has occurred.”

In a joint statement, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) emphasized the high stakes of the November midterm elections and reaffirmed their commitment to a women’s right to choose.

“Democrats believe women in America have the right to make their own health care decisions, and that politicians should never get in the way of these private decisions. Today’s Supreme Court ruling is the culmination of a coordinated Republican effort to attack this fundamental freedom – but Democrats will fight back with every tool we can, and voters of every political persuasion will hold the GOP accountable in 2022.”

Protest on the Frederick Douglass Bridge 

Guido Reichstadter of Miami, Florida is an abortion rights activist who scaled the Frederick Douglass Bridge Friday morning. Reichstadter can be seen waving a large flag that reads ‘don’t tread on my uterus’ and is tweeting live from the top of the bridge.

What it Means in DC

Friday afternoon, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), DC Council Chair Phil Mendelson, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington DC Laura Meyers and Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office on Women’s Policy and Initiatives Jennifer Porter spoke about the Supreme Court decisions implications for the District in a press conference.

“The majority of Americans believe that a women should have autonomy over her own body,” Bowser said. “Nothing has changed in Washington DC.”

Bowser reaffirmed her commitment to safe abortion and other reproductive care in DC.

“We will keep fighting, we will stand shoulder to shoulder with Planned Parenthood and we will not back down,” Bowser said.

Bowser pushed the issue of statehood in the press conference and said that DC would do “everything in its power” to remain a safe city for abortion care.

“We know that we are fighting not just for our women and girls, but for our democracy,” Bowser said.

DC Del. Eleanor Holmes-Norton echoed Bowser’s concern about what the District’s lack of statehood means for this ruling.

“Because we do not have statehood we are subservient still to the House and the Senate,” Holmes-Norton said. “I am calling on Congress to immediately codify the right to an abortion in federal law. That is the very least the District needs to save this city from what will surely to be an attempt by the republicans to make sure that abortions will not be available in out city.

SCOTUS Concealed Carry Ruling 
Earlier in the week, the Supreme Court issued another ruling expanding concealed carry rights for firearms. While there has been no indication from law enforcement or the Office of the Attorney General that laws surrounding firearms in the District of Columbia will changes as a result of this ruling, concern remains.
Ward 6 Council member Charles Allen said he was “deeply disappointed” in the Supreme Court’s decision regarding concealed carry.
“More impactful and positive for gun safety is the congressional action to put in place additional reasonable and commonsense federal laws,” Allen said. “By no means do I believe the federal action goes nearly far enough, but the support for state “red flag laws” and prohibiting straw purchases and transport across state lines will have a positive impact on gun violence in the District. I passed DC’s red flag law several years ago, as well as new prohibitions on ghost guns and extended clip magazines that do nothing but harm our communities. These new federal laws and supports will help bolster our strong local laws and have the potential to make them even more impactful in confronting gun violence in DC.”
DC Attorney General Karl Racine issued a statement expressing concern about what the decision means for Washingtonians.
“In the face of a gun-violence epidemic, the Supreme Court just issued a decision that will make it harder for communities across the country to prevent gun violence,” Racine said. “We are reviewing the decision and will continue to do everything possible to keep DC residents safe.”

Sarah Payne is general assignment reporter for Capital Community News. She can be reached at [email protected]