Locals, tourists react to SCOTUS decision

A group of people gathered outside the North Elba Town Hall last month to support abortion rights following the release of the Supreme Court’s draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade. (Enterprise photo — Lauren Yates)

LAKE PLACID — Taneen Carvell, of Washington, D.C., was taking a break in the shade next to Mirror Lake in Lake Placid on Friday afternoon. The scene was serene, but Carvell was filled with anger.

Carvell coaches Ironman athletes, and she was driving along the race course with an athlete on Friday morning when the athlete broke the news that the Supreme Court had overturned Roe v. Wade. She told him they needed to focus, to keep familiarizing themselves with the course. But when Carvell got back to her hotel room, she realized she needed a break. Carvell believes the U.S. justice system is corrupt and that it’s been “bought.”

“And that’s all for power, and women are the price,” she said. “That’s it.”

Locals and tourists throughout the Tri-Lakes region had mixed reactions after hearing about the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade on Friday.

The Supreme Court’s reversal of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, ending constitutional protection for womens’ right to an abortion after nearly five decades, comes after years of efforts by anti-abortion activists to get Roe v. Wade and other abortion rights decisions overturned. The opinion also follows the appointment of three Conservative justices to the Supreme Court by former President Donald Trump following the death of justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia, and the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy.

The final Supreme Court opinion by Conservative Justice Samuel Alito asserts that both Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the court’s decision reaffirming abortion rights in 1992, were wrong.

“The Constitution does not confer a right to an abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives,” Alito wrote.

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely — the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” Alito added later. “That provision has been held to guarantee some rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution, but any such right must be ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition’ and ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.’ The right to abortion does not fall within this category.”

Liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonio Sotomayor were in dissent.

“In overruling Roe and Casey, this Court betrays its guiding principles,” they wrote. “With sorrow — for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection — we dissent.

“Today’s decision, the majority says, permits ‘each State’ to address abortion as it pleases,” the dissenting justices added. “That is cold comfort, of course, for the poor woman who cannot get the money to fly to a distant State for a procedure. Above all others, women lacking financial resources will suffer from today’s decision.”

About half of states are expected to revisit abortion bans or restrictions in light of the opinion, according to the Associated Press.

“They’ll never, ever feel this,” Carvell said. “It’s the people that need this that will suffer, and those people that made this will never be there to support them. Not in any respect. It’s disgusting, and I’m really afraid of this country right now. I am.”

Mothers, daughters

Martha Pritchard Spear, who organized an abortion rights rally in Lake Placid in support of women’s reproductive rights last month, said Friday that she thought the “shameful” Supreme Court decision was essentially decided when Trump appointed Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Melissa Kilts, a Lake Placid resident who attended the rally in Lake Placid last month, said she’s concerned about her friends and family who are part of the LGBTQIA-plus community. She said they’re worried about their own access to healthcare being even more limited than it is now.

Kilts has a 24-year-old daughter, and Kilts wonders how this will impact her. Her daughter has never lived in a world where she couldn’t access that type of reproductive healthcare. Kilts and her daughter were texting on Friday about the Supreme Court decision, and her daughter said, “Let’s hope the states are smart.”

Jenna Chartier, a resident of Tupper Lake, believed the Supreme Court’s decision to be an awful step backward. Standing beside her son after grocery shopping, her thoughts were of her daughter, and the future she will have to face.

“It makes me scared for my daughter,” she said.

The future is uncertain enough for a mother, but Chartier’s fear is specific to the hardships now placed in front of only one of her children.

Last month, Pritchard Spear shared a story with the Enterprise about her own experience with abortion. She wanted to protest the court’s then-draft opinion and share the story of her abortion in hopes that she might have a positive impact on young women looking on.

“I had an abortion and I’m on the school board, I’m a Rotarian — it’s fine,” she said.

Carvell believes this Supreme Court decision has paved the way for her rights as a gay woman to be taken away.

“I know that’s coming next,” she said.

The “tip of the iceberg”

Ken Hitch, a reverend at St. Eustace Episcopal Church and another person who rallied for abortion rights in Lake Placid last month, called the Supreme Court decision “the tip of the iceberg” on possible rollbacks on human rights for LGBTQIA-plus people and people of color. He hopes people “of faith” will take action.

“To take a significant step back — and signaling other significant steps back — I think should be a concern to any person of faith, any Christian who believes in respecting and honoring the dignity of every single human being,” he said. “It should be a cause for alarm and hopefully spur them to action to vote, to make phone calls, to be outspoken and not shy away from talking about difficult things even when there may be a personal cost to that.”

Hariette Gary, a resident of Tupper Lake, believed future effects will go beyond a woman’s right to an abortion and infringe on LGBTQ rights as well as access to birth control.

“It’s going to impact much more than reproductive rights,” she said.

Gary was upset by the overturning of Roe v. Wade and spoke about how devastated she was for the millions of women who may be affected. Focused on the direct impact on women, she brought up abortion access following instances of incest or rape, as well as the damage she believes this decision could have on women with medical issues, like ectopic pregnancies. Although pregnancy is no longer a possibility for her, Gary valued the option of an abortion if she did have a serious complication when she was younger.

“What you do in your bedroom is your own business,” she said.

Fighting back

Carvell believes the Supreme Court’s decision likely won’t stick, but she said it’s probably going to be a long road back to achieving federal protection of women’s reproductive rights.

Carvell said she doesn’t know how women can recover their reproductive rights besides “getting really bleeping angry.” She knows women are tired of being angry, she said, but she thinks they need to be to create change. And as part of an older generation, she thinks its important for women of all ages to work together. She thinks women need to create an “underground network” of support that will carry them beyond this decision.

“As women, we have to stick together and we have to support those that can’t support themselves,” she said. “Like, any way we can — whatever that is.”

Pritchard Spear brought up a quote from late Representative John Lewis on Friday “about times like these.” The quote encourages people to get in “good trouble” in their fight for human rights.

Hitch thinks that men — especially cisgendered white men — also have a responsibility to speak out against the Supreme Court’s decision and support women’s reproductive rights.

“If you’re silent, you’re complicit in all of this,” he said. “You have to say something, and do something. Otherwise, those that are passionate about it on the other side are just going to charge ahead and this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Bodily autonomy

Darcy Morse, of Ticonderoga, disagreed with the overturning of Roe v. Wade wholeheartedly. Although enjoying a relaxing afternoon by Lake Flower with a local friend, she was adamant about her opinion on the Supreme Court’s decision and expressed the importance of a woman’s choice.

“I don’t think it should be up to some guy in his 80s telling women what they can and can’t do,” she said.

Maxwell Young, a Saranac Lake resident originally from Chicago, found the overturning of Roe v. Wade to be gut-wrenching and horrifying, but unsurprising.

“It feels even worse to not be surprised at all, I feel like we all saw this coming. … I feel like it’s such a violation of our rights as humans, as citizens, to have bodily autonomy. You know, the freedom we’re supposed to have that this government has a hard time giving,” Young said.

Sara Francis, a resident of Saranac Lake, believed the overturning of Roe v. Wade to be “absolutely absurd.”

“It really shows that we no longer have autonomy over our own bodies … and it shows that the people in power are no longer listening to the people who are actually affected.”

Francis said she believes the people’s voice to be important, and that such an act undermined the opinion and values of women.

Nancy Merrihew, a resident of Tupper Lake, believed women should be able to choose what to do with their own bodies and was disappointed with the decision made by the Supreme Court.

“I am a Catholic, but I still don’t believe in that,” she said, in reference to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Pritchard Spear said Friday that despite the Supreme Court’s decision,“women have always found a way to abort pregnancy when necessary, and we always will.”

“A sensible person can believe that choosing abortion is wrong, but equally believe that it is not for them to choose what another person should do in regard to such a private decision,” she said.

In New York state, abortion has been legal since 1970, when the Republican-majority state Legislature passed a measure allowing abortions within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy or in the event that an abortion was necessary to save a mother’s life. Then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, a Republican, signed the bill into law.

Abortion rights protections under Roe v. Wade were also codified into state law in 2019 with the Reproductive Health Act, adopted by the Democrat-majority state Legislature and signed into law by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat. His successor, Gov. Kathy Hochul, called the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade on Friday “a grave injustice” and declared New York state a “safe harbor for those seeking access to abortion care.”

Following the leak of a draft version of the court’s majority opinion, first published by online news outlet Politico on May 3, the state directed $35 million to abortion providers to expand their services in anticipation of an influx of out-of-state women seeking abortions after the repeal of Roe v. Wade.


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