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Landmark decision: Cape and Coast residents react to Supreme Court ruling on abortion

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Marlene Pollock
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A protestor in New Bedford on Friday holds a sign that blends symbols from the Gadsden flag with a drawing of the female reproductive system. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in a case that overturns Roe v. Wade.

Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade sparked a protest in New Bedford, while opponents of abortion hailed the ruling as a victory nearly 50 years in the making.

More demonstrations are planned on Cape Cod on Saturday as local residents respond.

The 6-3 decision ends the constitutional right to an abortion and gives states the power to enforce their own laws.

Marlene Pollock, an organizer with the Coalition for Social Justice, attended the rally at the corner of County and Union Streets in New Bedford, where she said about 20 people had gathered by early afternoon.

Passing drivers honked their horns in support as Pollock talked about the rally by phone.

"This young lady … has a terrific sign: ‘Pro-life is a lie. You don't care if women die,'" she said.

Pollock said some women will die, and that for those who give birth, Republicans won’t provide money for child care.

Around the South Coast, Cape Cod, and the Islands, abortion-rights supporters said they were shocked and dismayed, though not surprised at the Court decision, which followed a leaked draft in May.

A physician at an Attleboro abortion clinic said history has demonstrated that when abortion is illegal, women will resort to unsafe methods.

“The question is, really, do we provide safe abortions?” said Dr. Marcus Gordon, medical director at Four Women Health Services.

The Attleboro clinic is one of the closest abortion providers to the Cape, South Coast, and Islands.

An abortion clinic in Hyannis closed in 2008 after a patient died under anesthesia, according to the Cape Cod Times archives. The Times said the clinic was performing about 80 abortions a month.

About half of U.S. states are expected to ban or severely restrict abortion following today’s decision; many already have laws on the books that are now enforceable.

Abortion opponents say the Roe decision in 1973 was an abuse of judicial power that has now been corrected.

Massachusetts Citizens for Life greeted today’s court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization as a hard-won victory. The group said a majority of Americans support some limits on abortion.

"This is a moment that life advocates have worked tirelessly for throughout the past half-century,” said Myrna Maloney Flynn, president of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, in a written statement.

Meanwhile, as states line up on either side of the debate, abortion-rights advocates say many low- and moderate-income women seeking an abortion won’t have the means to travel to states where it remains legal.

Renee Ledbetter, vice president of the New Bedford NAACP, said the decision violates women’s autonomy.

“We can now no longer decide for our own bodies,” she said. “What’s next? … Are they going to take away affirmative action? Are they going to take away the progress we've made during civil rights?”

She said that as a Catholic, she would not have an abortion herself, but she still believes in the right to choose.

Dr. Dale Weldon, a Falmouth resident and obstetrician-gynecologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, called the Supreme Court decision a step backward for women’s health care.

“This is going to further disadvantage people who were already disadvantaged in the health care system by making the access to abortion very geographic,” she said.

She said women seek abortion for many reasons, and taking that option away affects both physical and mental health.

Massachusetts Citizens for Life said on its website that abortion opponents have their work cut out for them in the state, “where legislators appear hellbent on making Massachusetts the abortion capitol of the country, even up until the moment of birth.”

Gov. Charlie Baker signed an executive order today protecting abortion providers from extradition by other states and preventing state agencies from aiding another state’s investigation into someone who receives or provides reproductive health services that are legal in Massachusetts.

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.