The U.S. Supreme Court's potential overturning of Roe v. Wade has stirred strong passions nationwide, especially on the part of those who say their right to privacy and bodily autonomy is at stake.

A leaked draft earlier this month set off nationwide protests and prompted Democratic lawmakers in Washington to work on legislation codifying abortion rights.

Those opposed to abortion, including many Republican elected officials, condemned the leak but expressed hope that the final decision would protect the "most basic right, the right to life."

The League of Women Voters, while non-partisan as far as political parties, takes a strong stand on several issues including abortion rights.

The organization "has always stood for health care for all, and health care justice, and part of that is reproductive justice," said Carly Schmitt, president of the Vigo County League of Women Voters.

If the draft, leaked opinion comes to fruition, "It will create undue burdens for persons seeking abortion resources and also fundamentally challenge the right to health care for all," she said.

The decision would "fundamentally change the rights of women," she said.

It would change precedent with the result being that "women don't have full rights as human beings and as persons to do what they want with their bodies," Schmitt said.

Depending on where a woman lives, it will affect what kind of health care she can get in terms of abortion services, she said.

Lori Henson, a women's rights advocate who participated in a May 3 protest outside the Vigo County Courthouse, said that while the draft opinion was not a surprise, she was alarmed by "how extreme (Judge Samuel) Alito's opinion is."

Of concern to her are the possible repercussions "for every other implied protection under the bill of rights," including marriage equality and access to contraception.

"We know there's a larger agenda at play here," Henson said. "And the opinion is written in such a way to allow that agenda to take effect. The bottom line for me is rights are not rights if they depend on what state you live in."

She's concerned about negative outcomes if the Supreme Court decision takes away an individual's bodily autonomy and ability to decide whether they will give birth.

"You'll have children born into terrible situations. You'll have a foster kid system already overwhelmed becoming even more dysfunctional," Henson said.

What's important, she believes, is educating people about what resources are available and encouraging them to "fight back" by voting and pressuring legislators at the state and national level to codify protections in Roe.

Many others are hopeful Roe v. Wade is overturned, including Rachel Tetidrick, chairperson of Wabash Valley Right to Life.

"I understand a lot of opponents are upset about this because they think this is an infringement on the rights of women," she said. "My argument to them is without the right to life, we don't have any rights. That's the basis where it starts from."

She believes both those who support abortion, and those who oppose it, should work to provide services for women in difficult situations who are not in a position to care for a child, once born.

"I would think that both the pro life and the pro choice advocates would be looking at resources for women that are facing unwanted pregnancies," Tetidrick said. "Certainly, there are choices other than abortion. There are adoptions and organizations that are willing to help" women with that alternative.

She personally has been touched by the abortion issue, and she would feel "relieved" if the court finally does overturn Roe v. Wade.

"I feel this could save a lot of women and a lot of families remorse and heartache," she said. Overturning Roe gives her hope for those families.

"My mom had an abortion when she was very young, before I was born," Tetidrick said. "I've watched her deal with that pain for years and years and definitely feel the loss of what would have been my older sibling."

Debbi Hills, who has nine children and 15 grandchildren, also is hopeful Roe v. Wade will be overturned.

She has a special needs son with Down Syndrome, and she also was not married when she first got pregnant. "It has not always been easy, but it's been worth it every minute," Hills said.

Abortion, to Hills, is "taking someone's life," she said. "When you start acknowledging that it's taking a life, it's not that hard to understand why it's wrong."

The original 1973 court decision "was when we really put our stamp on turning our backs on the pre-born," Hills said. It evolved to the point where it became "just carte blanche to take children's lives."

She believes science "has taken us pretty far" in the ability to prevent pregnancy.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, "I think our work is just beginning ... We have to find ways to support these women" when abortion is no longer an option, she said.

"I hope everyone will put their energy into that, to provide them with needed support services," Hills said.

Terre Haute resident Kylie Carrithers said she's "pretty devastated" about the prospect of Roe v. Wade being overturned.

"I feel like this is jurisprudential gaslighting of America, because the draft opinion actively misrepresents the immediate judicial past," she said.

It conforms to personal religious beliefs of members of the Supreme Court, she said. "It's a brazen rewriting of American history and it really takes a bulldozer to privacy laws."

Similar to Henson, she doesn't believe it will stop with Roe v. Wade. "This same opinion, if you replace the word abortion with interracial marriage, with contraception, with gay marriage, you come to the same conclusion."

Carrithers works with college-age students and knows it will have implications for them.

Several of those students are planning for graduate programs in very difficult majors with a lot of hands-on requirements. If they become pregnant, unexpected things can happen during pregnancy that may impact what they are able to do.

"Having to choose between taking care of your children, taking care of yourself and moving forward in your career is a choice that many people have to make," Carrithers said.

Students make tough decisions all the time "and the right to choose your future shouldn't be something that's left to nine justices on the Supreme Court who are not elected," she said.

In Carrithers' mind, the court's decision "is not just about abortion. This decision is just the beginning of further eroding our privacy and our civil liberties."

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.


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