Max Graham
Kate Aultman-Moore and Raquel Leal lead a group of more than 100 protestors down Main Street on July 1 in support of reproductive rights. The U.S. Supreme Court on June 24 overturned Roe v. Wade, a landmark 1973 case that guaranteed nationwide abortion rights.

More than 100 people walked up and down Main Street last Friday, protesting the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, a landmark 1973 case that guaranteed abortion rights nationwide.

The court decision leaves the legality of abortion up to state legislatures. But last week’s ruling had no immediate direct effect on rights in Alaska, where a state Supreme Court ruling in 1997 confirmed that “reproductive rights are fundamental, and that they are encompassed within the right to privacy” in the state constitution.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court decision, eight states have since outlawed abortions and several more have tightened restrictions on the procedure.

“This is a human right that’s being taken away,” said Raquel Leal, a seasonal Haines resident who helped organize the demonstration. “It’s not meant to be political. … Education is just key.”

Leal said the large turnout “shocked” her. “I didn’t really have an expectation,” she said, adding there were a number of people who made signs but didn’t demonstrate.

Protestors marched with signs like “Abort the court” and “Guns have more rights than women!” and chanted a variety of phrases including “My body, my choice” and “Keep abotion safe and legal.”

Several residents joined the demonstration with a counter message. One held a sign that read, “Children are one of the greatest gifts God ever gave me.”

The high court’s June 24 decision upended five decades of legal precedent upholding a constitutional right to abortion. Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the 6-3 majority, said the court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade was “egregiously wrong and deeply damaging.”

“It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives,” Alito wrote.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas said the court in future cases should reconsider decisions that have affirmed rights to gay marriage, certain acts of sexual intimacy between same-sex partners and access to contraception. Other justices in the majority, however, said abortion is a unique case and said the ruling has no implications for other rights.

As with abortion, the court had previously ruled that several rights, like gay marriage, fall under a “right to privacy” established by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, but some legal scholars dispute that interpretation and believe those issues should be decided by legislators, not courts.

Alaska’s state constitution was amended in 1972 to include a privacy clause that guarantees abortion rights, the Alaska Supreme Court repeatedly has ruled.

But anti-abortion advocates are supporting a constitutional convention to change the privacy clause to allow the Legislature to pass abortion restrictions. A question about whether to hold a convention will be on the ballot this fall.

“I am honestly quite afraid of what our state is going to do,” said Haines High School student Sal Chapell, who attended the rally. “It isn’t anyone’s business what people want to do with their bodies.”

If the November ballot measure to hold a constitutional convention succeeds, that would be the first step in a years-long process. Alaskans would elect delegates to the convention, and would vote again after the convention to approve changes made by delegates.

The Alaska constitution requires a vote of the public every 10 years whether to convene a constitutional convention.