Bob’s Blog: Woe on Roe

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade – from the perspective of this social justice-oriented, public health advocate – represents an unmitigated civic and public health disaster for the nation.  One of the leadership aphorisms that I have trusted over the years is “one must neither overreact nor underreact” – so while the choice of my words here is strong, they are clear-eyed and measured.  This is the 9/11 of Supreme Court decisions.  Let us count the ways:

  • Women’s reproductive rights and their protections now shift to the states. Public health access to safe abortions is now subject to a politicized frontal assault in many states, and we will likely see wide state-by-state differences in access to essential reproductive health rights for women.
  • Poor and low-income women are the most impacted victims. As with nearly everything else in our nation, affluent women will find ways to access abortion services safely.  Poor women and women of color will disproportionately suffer, and racial justice takes yet another step backward in an already Trump-infused, white supremacy-resurgent political landscape.
  • The Slippery Slope. Now that SCOTUS has suffocated women’s reproductive health and rights, what will make its way to the Supreme Court next?  Another politicized legislative assault on LGBTQ and or Trans health and human rights?  What social justice and human rights attacks lie in wait?

Yes, I am red-hot angry about the Supreme Court decision.  But the history of social justice is replete with the translation of anger and frustration into opportunity, strategy, and impact.  I see three of them that we must set our minds and energies to:

  1. Voting and voter engagement – this is evident and self-explanatory. Social justice allies for women’s rights have an opportunity to make a post-Roe statement in the November 2022 and 2024 elections.
  2. Community organizing on steroids – With the Roe decision, and with the recent state-level attacks on voting rights and LGBTQ/Trans rights, the importance of local and state-by-state grassroots community organizing has never been more critical. Our colleagues in philanthropy must awaken to the reality that the surest path to a more just and healthy nation is through a vibrant, fully participatory democracy.
  3. Young People – As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr reminded us, the moral arc of the universe is long, and we are in the long game of social justice. We must combine urgency and patience to invest in civic engagement and organizing led by young people.

If we can embark on these three opportunities, then perhaps a decade from now we may be able to say that the 2022 Supreme Court decision was the sentinel, catalytic moment for social justice in America.  But for the moment, yes, this is indeed enraging and painful.

Bob Ross


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