11 Pro-Choice Activists Tell Us What’s At Stake With This SCOTUS Case

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March 10 is National Abortion Provider Appreciation Day. Less than a week before, on March 4, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments for a case that could dramatically restrict abortion access in Louisiana. The real action that day was outside the courtroom, where demonstrators from around the country gathered to support abortion providers and pregnant people’s right to choose. Bustle spoke with 11 activists in honor of the holiday, from Planned Parenthood's acting president and CEO to students.

by Molly Coleman

1. Alexis McGill Johnson

Profession: Acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood

Residence: New York City

Do you have any predictions about the outcome of this case?

It’s hard to read the tea leaves of a divided court. The conversation was incredibly robust, and I appreciated the voices of the women on the bench and their abilities to get to the heart of the patient experience.

Justice Kavanaugh asked whether admitting privileges should always be unconstitutional, even if doctors could easily get them. How do you feel about that?

Abortion is a very safe medical procedure. If you have a very safe procedure, it makes it very hard to obtain or sustain [those privileges]. My opinion is that we have to look at these restrictions as clear attempts to limit access. They're medically unnecessary, so I don't see them as constitutional.

While we wait for their decision, is there anything people can do to help?

Hold elected officials accountable. Are the candidates running for office accountable on these issues? That's the biggest thing we can do right now.

During the 2016 primary, Planned Parenthood made its first-ever political endorsement for Hillary Clinton. Do you plan to make an endorsement in this primary cycle?

No, we don't have plans to endorse in the primary.

When did you realize that access to abortion was political?

I'm as old as Roe [v. Wade]. I'm 47. I was raised by women who fought for it, who taught me how important it was to maintain.

Do you talk to your daughters about access to abortion?

Absolutely. My daughters are on the younger side, so we have age-appropriate conversations about everything from sex education, birth control, and sex, to abortion. It’s important they understand from an early age that they’re in control of their own bodies and their futures. My 10-year-old wanted to dye her hair magenta. I was like, "Absolutely not." She said, "Mom, I can control my own body. Hair is my body." Before I knew it, I was taking her to get tinfoil on her hair. Now my daughter has pink hair.

Alexis McGill Johnson, @alexismcgill

2. Michelle Kinsey Bruns

Profession: Advocate for abortion clinic patients and staff

Residence: Denver, Colorado

Why are you here today?

We did this four years ago [for Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt]. It’s a slap in the face for the court to say, "If we don't get the results we want, we're going to have a do-over once we put justices on the bench who agree with us."

Does it take a toll to protest year after year?

It's demoralizing. They intend it to be — it's a feature, not a bug. In some states, abortion will stay legal no matter what happens. For those where it doesn’t, there are networks in place to help people travel, access funding, and do self-managed abortions. Nobody can predict how this is going to go, but we can be ready for every eventuality, and we are.

Michelle Kinsey Bruns

3. Kimberly Inez McGuire

Profession: Executive director of Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity (URGE)

Residence: Washington D.C.

Why is this issue important to you?

There's been a lot of birth trauma in my family, a lot of women who didn't get the care they needed because they were poor, because they were brown. I want a different world for the generations to come.

Kimberly Inez McGuire

4. Andrea Miller

Job: President of National Institute for Reproductive Health

Residence: New York City

Why are you here today?

Attacks on abortion care are, at best, benign neglect and, at worst, outright antipathy toward the health of [people] who can become pregnant, especially women of color, communities of color, and low-income people. We're fighting for a vision — access to reproductive health care services and a culture that respects our right to make decisions for ourselves and our families.

What do you expect will be the outcome of this case?

[Justice] John Roberts may come up with something creative, but they’ll find a way to give states a green light to restrict abortion.

Rod Lamkey Jr

5. Kaylan Tanner

Profession: Student at Dillard University

Residence: New Orleans, Louisiana

Why are you here today?

There aren't a lot of doctors in Louisiana who look like me. I'm a black woman. Just being respected in those spaces is really hard, and it’s not just about race. It’s about economic status. If I were a wealthy white woman, I would be treated differently. I go to a private, historically black university. One of my jobs on campus is to destigmatize abortion. When I started doing this work, I had family tell me, "I've had an abortion, and I wasn't able to tell other family members." If you're going through this, you likely know others who have as well. I'm trying to break down those barriers and have those conversations on campus.

Molly Coleman

6. Merritt Rebouché

Profession: Director of patient advocacy for Hope Medical Group for Women (the plaintiff in June Medical Services v. Russo)

Residence: Shreveport, Louisiana

Why do you do the work you do?

I was raised as a fundamentalist Christian, and I learned to love other people and trust folks' experience. When I went to college and saw protesters at the clinic across from the school, they were very hateful and aggressive. Although I didn't know how I felt about abortion, I knew that wasn't OK. I started as a clinic escort, and nine years later, I’m still here, working as a patient advocate.

What's changed since you started doing this work?

The folks fighting against reproductive health care have been doing this for a long time, but because of the current administration, they can now do it baldly and open-faced.

Merritt Rebouché

7. Lexi White

Profession: Senior policy manager for In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda

Residence: Washington D.C.

Why are you here today?

Our human rights have been under attack. We're angry and are demanding change at the national and state levels. We’re not going to go away.

When does the reproductive justice movement get to take a break?

When we have full autonomy over our bodies, our gender, our sexuality, our work, and our reproduction.

Lexi White

8. Sheila Katz

Profession: CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women

Residence: Washington D.C.

Where does religion fit into the pro-choice movement?

Judaism permits abortion and sometimes requires it. This isn't just an issue about our constitutional right to abortion. It’s about our First Amendment freedom of religion. Jewish tradition is very clear that a fetus is not considered a life and a fetus isn't considered to have a soul. We're launching a campaign for rabbis to say the word “abortion” from the bema. We have to take away any kind of stigma because that stigma doesn't exist in Jewish tradition.

Sheila Katz

9. Nikki Madsen

Profession: Executive director of Abortion Care Network

Residence: Minneapolis, Minnesota

What brought you to this work?

My grandmother had an illegal abortion prior to Roe v. Wade. She had to go to a hospital [because] it wasn't a safe procedure. The doctors and nurses refused to care for her, because they knew why she was there. She survived because one nurse decided to help. Her story keeps me fighting every day.

How have things changed in the reproductive justice movement in the last few years?

Because of the harassment providers face, it's difficult to get new providers to work in states like Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

Center for Reproductive Rights

10. Keanan McGonigle

Profession: Education and advocacy fellow at American Medical Student Association

Residence: Washington D.C.

Why are you here today?

This case has bearing on us as future physicians, for how we’re allowed to practice and how the legal system might interfere in the way we want to interact with our patients. In Missouri, there was a threat that the residents were going to lose their license if they didn't comply with state regulations [restricting abortion access]. We do 10-plus years of training to become doctors. That’s why we’re trusted. When we say that abortion is safe and should remain legal, and that it is a critical piece of reproductive health, we’ve got the evidence and the facts to back it up.

Keanan McGonigle

11. Steffani Bangel

Profession: Executive director of New Orleans Abortion Fund

Residence: New Orleans, Louisiana

What could the state of reproductive justice look like if we didn’t have to fight to preserve Roe v. Wade?

We’ve spent so much time and energy fighting to maintain the scraps we’ve [been given]. Our state, Louisiana, is at the bottom of just about every list you want to be at the top of. We’re near the bottom for child welfare, for child hunger, for early-childhood education access. We’re living in a maternal mortality crisis, in which black women are four times likelier than white women to die in childbirth or as a result of their pregnancies. We defer to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. And because we've been forced to fight over scraps to protect abortion access, we haven't had the political capital or capacity to strive for these other critical needs.

These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Steffani Bangel