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Butler County reacts to overturn of Roe v. Wade

Demonstrators protest outside of the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday, May 3, 2022 in Washington. A draft opinion suggests the U.S. Supreme Court could be poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide, according to a Politico report released Monday. Whatever the outcome, the Politico report represents an extremely rare breach of the court's secretive deliberation process, and on a case of surpassing importance. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Those in the county on either side of the abortion issue had strong opinions on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Friday that the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion, thus overruling Roe v. Wade and the more recent Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

The decision means each state will now determine whether abortion is legal for its citizens.

Ray Ferguson, a member of All Saints Roman Catholic Parish in Butler, has served as bus captain roughly 20 times for locals traveling on chartered buses to the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.

“It’s wonderful. It’s long overdue,” Ferguson said of the Supreme Court decision. “It means justice for the most vulnerable in our society, the unborn.”

Ferguson said he had faith that Roe v. Wade would be overturned, but was surprised it happened so quickly.

He said the “fight for those who cannot defend themselves” is now in the hands of the state legislature.

“But there is also a community and social side to this,” Ferguson said. “You also want to change people’s hearts and minds, which I think is more important than the laws.”

He said now that Roe v. Wade is overturned, changes must be made.

“Those (who are) pro-life need to step up to help women with unexpected pregnancies, to do more to support them in whatever ways they need support,” Ferguson said.

Emily Keener, associate professor of psychology at Slippery Rock University, was greatly upset at the decision on Friday afternoon.

“I am just thinking about how women are going to die because of this, especially marginalized women,” Keener said. “It’s not going to stop abortion.”

She also takes issue with the decision from the standpoint of women’s rights, as she feels Friday’s actions means a group of people are telling women what they can and cannot do.

“It really speaks to the power of the patriarchy in this country,” Keener said.

She suspects that many on the anti-abortion side voted for President Donald Trump in the hopes of loading the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“A lot of people held their noses and voted for Trump just to get this (ruling),” Keener said.

She said she and two other professors met on Friday to consider ways to pique student interest in elections, encourage students to register to vote and to critically evaluate their stances on issues.

“For instance, what is the difference between your individual beliefs and imposing your beliefs on other people,” Keener said.

U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-16, issued a statement on the decision.

"Today's ruling is a major victory for the pro-life movement, but our work has only begun," Kelly said. "All little boys and little girls deserve a chance at life, and this ruling ensures they will get that chance. The right to life is not just for some of us. It is for all of us.“

Kelly said he also wants to speak directly to those who have had abortions and struggle with their decision.

“You should know that forgiveness and grace – for yourself and others – will help heal those emotional wounds. As we move forward, I encourage everyone to remember a core tenet of this country that still holds true today: each of us has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., also issued a statement on the decision.

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization restores the American people’s ability to determine abortion laws through their elected representatives, as the Constitution requires,” Toomey said. “Precedents that are wrongly decided should be overturned, just as Brown v. Board of Education was right to overturn Plessy v. Ferguson.

“This ruling is a win for the unborn, the Constitution and democratic governance.”

Catherine Lalonde, chairwoman of Butler County Democrats, also issued a statement on Friday regarding the decision.

She said the ruling “marks a giant step backward for the rights of anyone of childbearing age in this country and a looming threat in Pennsylvania.”

She cautioned that the Republican candidate for governor has promised that if he wins, anyone who is pregnant will have to carry that pregnancy to term, with no exceptions for incest, rape or the health of the mother.

“I don’t give way for exceptions either. Kathy Barnette is going to be our next U.S. Senator. She is a product of rape,” State Senator Doug Mastriano has said when asked about abortion.

Lalonde added that she believes Friday’s ruling will only worsen the country’s status as holding the highest infant mortality rates of any developed country.

“The lasting harm to unwilling mothers in unimaginable,” Lalonde said. “We are not willing to prioritize an embryo’s rights over those of a mother.”

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