The Fight For Abortion Rights Isn't Over | Crooked Media
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June 26, 2022
What A Day
The Fight For Abortion Rights Isn't Over

In This Episode

  • The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to overturn Roe v. Wade on Friday, and throughout the weekend people took to the streets. We hear from you, our listeners, about how you’re affected by the news. And Leah Litman, co-host of Crooked’s Strict Scrutiny, joins us to answer some of the big legal questions we have about the ruling.
  • In headlines: Russian forces rampaged across Ukraine, G7 leaders announced a $600 billion global infrastructure program, and the melting-down of a bronze Robert E. Lee statue was halted.
  • And we hear from some people and organizations fighting for abortion access right now about how they’re staying hopeful.


Show Notes:



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Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Monday, June 27th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice, and this is What A Day. We’re going to jump straight into the show because of the major historic news from late last week. Friday, the Supreme Court ruled 6 to 3 to overturn Roe v. Wade. And throughout the weekend, people took to the streets.


[chanting] My life. My choice.


[woman 1] I’m just sad, honestly. I don’t know. It’s just scary.


[woman 2] I can’t stop crying. I can’t believe that my daughters are out here fighting for the same thing my mom fought for.


[woman 3] Like, it just seems so apocalyptic, but it’s, like, not surprising. And that’s, like, the saddest part.


[woman 4] I’m angry, upset, and, frankly, motivated more than ever to push for change.


[man] Abortion rights are human rights! Let me hear you guys scream!


Josie Duffy Rice: Some of the sound from protests all across the country since the news was announced. You know, the ruling left many people, including us, frankly, devastated and scared.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it’s not been a pleasant weekend to even say it lightly. We wanted to hear from as many of you as we could about your own thoughts, you know, give you space to share how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, let you vent. This is from Kyrsten in Salt Lake City, Utah.


[Kyrsten] I am also someone who had an unplanned pregnancy. I personally chose to keep my child, and he is now a seven-year old, who is the light of my life. Having said all of that, it makes me very emotional and angry at the idea of forcing anyone to do this. I have really the best case scenario and as far as single parenting goes, and it’s still incredibly difficult. It’s expensive, it’s extremely lonely, it is just draining in every way possible. I am still happy with the choice that I made, but when I think of people who do not have my privilege and who don’t want to be a parent, it breaks my heart what all of this means for them.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, wow. My biggest take away from that was that she said, like, I am happy with my choice. She had the ability to kind of choose what happened to her, her future, her body, for that period of time and afterwards. And that’s everything.


Josie Duffy Rice: Mm hmm. Yeah, absolutely. Here’s another one. This from an anonymous listener who works at an abortion clinic in the Midwest. Quote, “I am furious. I’m exhausted. I am gutted. I am basically never not crying anymore. But I also want people to know that those of us deeply steeped in the reproductive world are legitimately going to continue to do everything in our power to give people the abortions that they want and are entitled to. It is our life’s work and we will not stop.”


Priyanka Aribindi: They’re heroes.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. And I think hearing stuff like that is just a reminder. There’s infrastructure that exists, right? There are people doing this work who have been doing this work under enormous pressure for decades. And so obviously this is a watershed moment in the worst possible way. But I think it’s good to look to the people who have already been fighting, right?


Priyanka Aribindi: 1,000%. We’ll be covering more of the aftermath in the days, weeks, and quite frankly, years to come. But for now, we wanted to answer some of the big legal questions we have about the ruling. Once again, we have with us Leah Litman. She is the co-host of Crooked’s Strict Scrutiny and professor of law at the University of Michigan. Leah, welcome back to What A Day.


Leah Litman: Thanks for having me.


Let’s start broadly. After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday morning, what is the state of abortion in this country? I know several states have already passed anti-abortion legislation that was either already in effect or going to go into effect the minute that Roe was overturned. How have our rights and our access to care changed following this decision?


Leah Litman: It’s changed a lot depending on where you live. So some states had trigger laws that were set to go into effect, you know, once Roe was overruled. In other states, however, there were laws on the books that courts had basically enjoined and said, you can’t enforce these because Roe is the law of the land, but once the Supreme Court overruled Roe, then the states went to the federal courts and said, you have to let us start enforcing these laws, and so those injunctions were dissolved in states like Ohio and Alabama. So it’s changed a lot, very dramatically, over just 48 hours at this point.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. And then really quickly, can you tell us a little bit about how some of those more insidious trigger laws would punish people who are trying to get abortions?


Leah Litman: So some of the trigger laws just completely prohibit abortions. Most of them impose criminal punishment on the providers who perform abortion. A lot of them, or at least some of them, don’t contain exceptions for cases of rape, incest, trafficking. They also contain pretty limited exceptions for where abortion might be necessary to save the life or health of the mother. And the concern is who is going to determine when an abortion is necessary to save the life or health of a mother, particularly because medical emergencies can either develop quickly, in which case you need that determination right in the moment, or you can see them on the horizon, even if you know, an individual’s life might not be in danger at that very moment, you know, it could be in the future. And it’s not clear whether under the laws you could perform an abortion at that time.


Josie Duffy Rice: On the other end of the spectrum, other states like Minnesota and California are quote unquote, “safe haven” states, saying that they’ll protect abortion patients and providers from laws in other states. But what should people know about what that legal landscape looks like? I think there’s a lot of fear right now of like what’s next in terms of like what prosecution looks like for people who get a technically legal abortion but reside in another state.


Leah Litman: And I think that uncertainty is going to be a large part about what chills access to abortion, just like the uncertainty about the future of Roe, is what has been preventing access to abortion in Texas. Now, on one hand, the, you know, separate writing from Justice Kavanaugh is some encouragement. You know, like one of the justices who was necessary to the five who would have overruled Roe said he didn’t think a state could impose criminal penalties on that. But gosh, like, I don’t know if I would risk my life or livelihood on that passing statement in a single writing by one of the justices in the majority, when I’m not sure if the Chief Justice agrees. And also I’m not sure how bound he would feel to that in a future case, given that he just kind of declared, Yeah, I think there is this implied right to travel that also isn’t in the text of the Constitution. But I think it’s very uncertain.


Josie Duffy Rice: You know, related to this, many people have kind of sounded the alarm about deleting things like period tracking apps which reports say might not keep personal information secure from the government. So how should folks be thinking about the information they’ve given to their doctors, their insurers, their apps? You know, is this something that you think people need to be worried about or at least aware of?


Leah Litman: Absolutely. And I think that that possibility is going to be a key part about what limits the efficacy of, let’s say, a company promises to support employees, you know, to go to another state to obtain abortion care because in order to, you know, avail yourself of that leave time that your company would offer you, in order to avail yourself of the financial support that they would offer you, you would need to inform a bunch of people that you are getting an abortion and you are risking, you know, potentially criminal liability on yourself, your provider, the people that assist you in obtaining an abortion if you do that. You know, so I do think people need to think very carefully about who’s in their trusted network and also where they’re in information is going.


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. So obviously, Friday’s opinion was concerning abortion, but that’s not all that was discussed. Justice Thomas called for the reconsideration of a few other major cases that involve a lot of rights, namely the ones that guaranteed a marriage equality, same sex intimacy, access to contraception–a bunch of things that, you know, up until relatively recently, most of us were kind of just like, Cool, great, those are rights that we have and we’re not assuming that they would go away. Do you think that these are next up on the chopping block? How should we be thinking about these rights?


Leah Litman: I think people should be scared. I don’t think like these rights are rights that are going to be overruled, you know, in a decision that says we’re overruling Obergefell versus Hodges, the right to marriage equality, next year. But I think people should recognize that like two things can happen. One is that these decisions can be chipped away and limited and undermined over the course of several years before the court might ultimately overrule them, in the same way that the right to abortion was limited, undermined, and chipped away at for several decades before we finally got a Supreme Court that outright overruled it. And we’re already seeing movement along those lines with respect to LGBTQ equality as well as contraception. You’re seeing certain state legislatures saying, well, certain forms of contraception, they’re really abortion, and therefore we can criminalize them. Or you had the Florida Don’t Say Gay law or you see, you know, the attacks on transgender families. So there are already efforts underway to limit the reach of those decisions, if not outright overrule them. And second, you know, think back to the Republican platform from, you know, 2016. They promised to appoint justices who were going to overrule Roe and Obergefell versus Hodges, right? Maybe they didn’t get those five justices this time, but gosh, right? They’re trying to get there.


Josie Duffy Rice: Can you talk about that a little bit more in terms of public opinion? One of the things that people kind of keep saying is like actually people really support gay marriage. And the truth is that people also overwhelmingly support Roe v. Wade, so like the fact that this is an integral part of the Republican platform is not actually about public opinion.


Leah Litman: No.


Josie Duffy Rice: I just am interested to hear what you think about what that kind of means.


Leah Litman: You know, this exposes the majority opinion as just all hypocrisy, right? Then all of their objections to Roe are not actually about the lack of textual basis or the lack of historical foundation, it’s just what they think they can get away with politically. All of the justices in the majority are just playing power, not law. And then second is, I think that is cold comfort given the state of our constitutional democracy, which has enabled minoritarian rule, right? The Senate is skewed. The Electoral College is skewed. With gerrymandering, state legislatures are skewed. So even if you have an issue on which, you know, a national majority is all behind, that doesn’t necessarily translate into winning federal elections, nor might it translate into winning elections at the state legislature, again, given that the court has allowed state legislatures to dilute votes of racial minorities, as well as draw districts in ways that like lock in political power for one party. And so I just don’t think we should feel safe if, you know, a majority, even a large majority supports Obergefell, given the ease with which the court has allowed politicians to kind of insulate themselves from democracy and voters.


Josie Duffy Rice: Is there anything Dems can do now or start doing now to lay the groundwork to reverse this decision? And along with that, what can the Democratic Party do now to provide protection for stuff like interstate travel.


Leah Litman: On the state level, you know, they should be enacting laws like Connecticut and other jurisdictions have to try to insulate, you know, in-state providers from liability to the extent that they can. I think that they should attempt to, you know, fund the abortion access in their states as much as they can, given those states are now going to be providing abortions for not just people in that state, but for many other states as well. You know, of course, in my dream world, you know, we would get federal legislation that codifies the right to Roe, but that’s not the Democratic Party that we have right now. I do think it would help, right, for the leaders of the Democratic Party to be more specific about what they need from voters and what voters will get. So, for example, like if they said we need two more Democratic senators and if we get two more Democratic senators, we will break the filibuster, we will codify Roe, we will strip the court’s jurisdiction, or expand the courts to protect that, right, then that would give voters a sense of, Well, like, what am I going to the polls for?


Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. How do, you know, all of us who care about abortion access and the right to bodily autonomy fight back right now? What do we do? Is there anything we can do, you know, if we care about this issue?


Leah Litman: You know, one thing is supporting abortion funds. You know, there are going to be smaller clinics, you know, in addition to Planned Parenthood that will be opening up in areas to try to provide care again for people in jurisdictions that are going to become like reproductive health deserts. Second is becoming active and organized in state and local elections from here to the rest of your life. Because the reality is, is that like in a world without Roe, access to safe and legal abortion is on the ballot every single election for the rest of your lives. You know, these are things that the conservative legal movement did for three decades before Roe was overruled. I think people need to become comfortable about the fact that this might not change next year. You know, this might not change during your lifetime. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth fighting for, even if you are not going to see the fight won.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. That’s both depressing and inspiring in its own way. So . . .


Leah Litman: I mean, look, I don’t want to give, like, false hope, right? You go to the polls, like–


Josie Duffy Rice: No, yeah, right.


Leah Litman: –you know, this midterm, and like it’s going to be better in 2023 all of a sudden, because, look, the reality is, is like we need to like help fix our democracy, too, because like, as long as we have this, like, wildly unrepresentative system, it’s not going to be great, and there are always going to be a risk of empowering, like minoritarian, like, autocrats. And so, yeah.


Josie Duffy Rice: Absolutely, yeah.


Priyanka Aribindi: Leah Litman, co-host of Crooked’s Strict Scrutiny and professor of law at the University of Michigan. Thank you so much for joining us today. This was all very helpful and gives us a clearer roadmap of what is ahead. We really appreciate it.


Leah Litman: Any time. Thanks for having me.


Priyanka Aribindi: If you want to hear more from Leah about the ruling’s impact, you can catch her tomorrow during a live virtual event that Crooked’s is hosting called “After Roe: Reproductive and Civil Rights Move to States.” Leah, Hysteria’s Erin Ryan, and more will dive even deeper into what the ruling means, what comes next, and how to fight back. RSVP now. It is at 8 p.m. Eastern, 5 p.m. Pacific. We’ll put a link to it in our show notes. Highly, highly recommend attending. Later on after headlines, we’re going to hear a little of what advocacy organizations are doing right now to keep up the fight, and how they are staying hopeful. But first, some ads.


[ad break]


Priyanka Aribindi: Now let’s get to some headline.


[sung] Headlines.


Priyanka Aribindi: Russian forces rampaged across Ukraine all weekend long. On Saturday, the eastern city of Severodonetsk fell under Russian control. Ukrainian soldiers fought intensely on the ground for weeks there, so this is a huge setback for the country. And yesterday, missiles hit Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, killing at least one person and injuring four others. Bombing started around six in the morning while many people were still asleep. This is the first time the western city was hit since April because fighting has mostly been concentrated in the eastern and southern parts of the country. Russian officials claimed they attacked military facilities, but in reality they had bombed a residential neighborhood with a kindergarten. Also on Saturday night, Russia launched dozens more cruise missiles and hit multiple suburbs across Ukraine. It is believed that those missiles were launched from Belarus following a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his close ally, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko. All of this went down as the leaders of the G7 nations gathered in Germany for their annual summit.


Josie Duffy Rice: And speaking of the summit, G7 leaders announced a $600 billion global infrastructure program intended to compete with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which has helped China broaden its sphere of influence and boost its economy by building and developing countries. President Biden pledged $200 billion from the U.S. alone, in both public and private funds. Without mentioning China, here’s how he framed the initiative as a good use of G7 cash:


[clip of President Biden] It will boost all of our economies. It’s a chance for us to share our positive vision for the future, where communities around the world see themselves and see for themselves the concrete benefits of partnering with democracies.


Josie Duffy Rice: A few early projects the White House has already announced for the so-called “Partnership for Global Infrastructure”, a solar power project in Angola, a vaccine manufacturing facility in Senegal, and a telecommunications cable connecting Singapore to France. China’s initiative has been mostly focused on roads, railways, and ports, and, according to the US, nations who embark on those projects with China often end up deeply in debt.


Priyanka Aribindi: Old racist statues remain as hard to kill as ever, seeing as the melting down of a bronze Robert E Lee has been put on hold due to pending litigation, despite the fact the statue has already been taken down and cut into pieces. This particular version of the Confederate General resides in Charlottesville, Virginia, and he has been at the center of racist statue debates over the past five years. The infamous Unite the Right rally was held in 2017 partly to oppose the statue’s removal. As you may remember, a participant in that rally killed counter-protester Heather Heyer and injured several others. But neither the statue’s terrifying recent history nor its terrifying distant history seem to bother the two foundations that sued to stop its destruction. They want the city of Charlottesville to restore and repair the statue, or, if it can’t be repaired, somehow repurpose it into a civil war cannon to display on a civil war battlefield–I thought, you know, those were Civil War-era cannons and that was why they were being displayed, but I, it seems that they have missed several points here. Of course, no one is checking in to see what Bronze Robert E Lee himself wants here. If they did, considering that he has been dismembered, he’d probably just say, Let me die. The statue’s current owner is the Jefferson School African-American Heritage Center. If this lawsuit doesn’t succeed, it will resume its efforts to melt the statue down and turn it into a new piece of public artwork.


Josie Duffy Rice: I have to say, when I first heard about this story, I just assumed the statue was gold, because that seems like the only reasonable conclusion to draw about what happened to the pieces of the statue. It is not gold. It is bronze.


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s bronze. And if someone is inventive, you’ll come up with a National Treasure-style plot for like, the pieces and hunting down where they are in some kind of secret message. That is a movie I would watch.


Josie Duffy Rice: I would 100% watch that movie. Netflix, are you listening? We have the answer to all your problems.


Priyanka Aribindi: We have an idea for you.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. Gold miners in Canada’s Yukon region accidentally discovered a nearly complete baby wooly mammoth that had been trapped in permafrost for over 30,000 years, reminding me that I should find the one chicken breast that’s been trapped in my freezer for a similar time period. The mammoth is the most complete mummified mammal ever found in North America. There are pictures.


Priyanka Aribindi: Do not recommend looking at them, though.


Josie Duffy Rice: We don’t think you should look at them. They’re not as cute as you may think.


Priyanka Aribindi: They’re disgusting. They are gross.


Josie Duffy Rice: They’re really bad. They’re really bad. She does have all the features you’d expect from an Ice Age elephant–meh–though she clearly didn’t have any serums trapped with her in the ice because the aging is apparent–we can confirm. She turned up on the traditional territory of the Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation people, who commemorated the discovery with a ceremony where tribal elders gave her a name that translates to “Big Baby Animal. Very straightforward.


Priyanka Aribindi: Sounds about right.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. That’s all you can really say about it. The nicest thing you can say about this mummified mammoth. Paleontologists will work with the tribe to determine what comes next. To other animal mummies opting to stay in the ice a little bit longer given the state of the world: we do not blame you.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, we’d love to hop right in there with you, but climate change seems to have other plans for the mummies and for us, right here on earth.


Josie Duffy Rice: Not loving the fact that wooly mammoths are just melting.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Appearing.


Josie Duffy Rice: Appearing. Feels like not a great sign about the climate. Cool, cool, cool.


Priyanka Aribindi: Uh uh. Not a good sign of the times. Don’t like it.


Josie Duffy Rice: Mm mm


Priyanka Aribindi: And those are the headlines.


Josie Duffy Rice: Hey, WAD squad. We’re going to wrap up with a message: don’t give up. We know it’s hard to stay hopeful right now, but people and organizations are still fighting for abortion access day-in and day-out.


Priyanka Aribindi: The Center for Reproductive Rights represented the Mississippi clinic at the center of the recent Supreme Court ruling. Here is the center’s president and CEO, Nancy Northup, speaking on a press call on Friday after the decision was issued:


[clip of Nancy Northup] We will be back in court tomorrow and the next day and the next day, making sure that as much as possible, abortion access can be retained. We will be looking to the Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act. We’ll be looking to the Biden administration to the extent of its powers. And we’ll be looking to the states, as well as ballot initiatives where citizens can protect the right to abortion themselves by directly doing this in ballot initiatives. And we’ll do everything we can to keep abortion access as safe and available as possible.


Priyanka Aribindi: That, I feel like, is the only thing that has given me hope in several days. So thank you, Nancy, for that. And you can help, too. Here is one of our incredible Crooked colleagues.


Olivia Martinez Hey, WAD squad! This is Olivia Martinez. I am a producer on Pod Save America here at Crooked Media, and I am also an abortion doula here with the Los Angeles Abortion Support Collective. And I’m just feeling like the Supreme Court was never going to save us. They never will save us. And we’re seeing time and time again how our systems are not out there to help us. People like everyone listening to the show that care a lot about our country and care a lot about the direction we’re headed in, our job is to help each other, that we are going to be the ones who save us. And so I’m feeling really called to doula work and called to help as many people I know access information about abortion and get abortions and help each other realize how we can do that work. And my goal is just to make sure that everyone knows how to get the support that they need, and that we’re all able to show up for each other. We’re all we’ve got.


Josie Duffy Rice: So the fight is not over, and we will be here to help you with the important info, the experts to guide you, and the right tools.


Priyanka Aribindi: Find everything you need to support reproductive rights at VoteSaveAmerica dot com/roe. You’ll be able to donate to local abortion funds, independent clinics, and legal defense funds for patients. You can also support winnable races in 2022 where abortion is at stake, like the governor’s races in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Arizona. That is all once again at VoteSaveAmerica dot com/roe. I highly recommend checking it out.


Josie Duffy Rice: And if you want to share with us how you’re feeling right now, we would love to hear from you. You can write to us or record yourself using your phone’s voice memo app, and then email us the file @WAD@Crooked Dot com.


Priyanka Aribindi: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, find mummies in your freezer, and tell your friends to listen.


Josie Duffy Rice: And if you are into reading, and not just instructions for melting down racist statues like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Josie Duffy Rice.


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


[together] And don’t give up!


Priyanka Aribindi: There were several reasons to stay hopeful in that last section, and they made me feel a lot better than I have been in a long time.


Gideon Resnick: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzy Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.