Sandra Oleson, center, holds up a “Protect Our Rights” sign and shouts for support from passing vehicles during a protest against the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade on Friday along Broadway in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Sandra Oleson, center, holds up a “Protect Our Rights” sign and shouts for support from passing vehicles during a protest against the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade on Friday along Broadway in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Roe v. Wade ruling spurs praise and outrage in Snohomish County

Washington will become a sanctuary for abortion access. Voters legalized early pregnancy abortions over 50 years ago.

EVERETT — The overturning of Roe v. Wade unleashed the full gamut of human emotion in Snohomish County and across the country Friday.

The decision in Dobbs v. Jackson sparked a litany of statements from elected leaders and the politically involved.

Social conservatives and Republicans rejoiced at Friday’s decision.

Republican Snohomish County Councilmember Nate Nehring posted online that the ruling is “among the biggest victories for civil and human rights that our country has ever seen.” He claimed 63 million “preborn children have been killed” since the 1973 ruling.

“My hope is that the outcome of today’s decision will not only save lives, but will transform our American society from a culture of death toward a culture which respects the dignity of all human life, particularly those who are most vulnerable,” he said.

Others took to the streets. About 200 protesters waving signs lined both sides of Broadway late Friday afternoon near the 41st Street on-ramp.

“We will not go back,” the group chanted at motorists.

People cheered loudly when cars honked. It got noisy at times, especially when passing first responder vehicles activated sirens and lights in support.

The demonstration was organized on short notice by Snohomish County Indivisible, which led “Bans Off Our Bodies” rallies in May, drawing hundreds of protesters against what was then a looming decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The work ahead of us is making sure Washington state is a safe place for individuals seeking abortion services,” group founder Naomi Dietrich told The Daily Herald on Friday.

As one sign put it: “Abort the courts.”

“I’m angry,” said Sandra Oleson, 74, of Everett. “Women have rights. We’re not going to go backwards.”

Lake Stevens resident Jennifer Davis, 47, and her two daughters were among the crowd of protesters.

Waking up to the news Friday morning, Davis said she felt devastated.

“I spoke on the phone with my mother-in-law earlier today,” she said. “She was beside herself that she has had more rights during her lifetime than her granddaughters will.”

Down the street at the protest, Trevor Anderson, 26, and his father were counting the number of middle fingers they saw from passing cars. The Lake Stevens duo had tallied six birds 20 minutes into the event.

“People are going to die,” Anderson said. “Abortion is not going to stop. It’s just not going to be safe anymore. Just because you read a book that told you it was a thing people shouldn’t do, you have a right to not do it. That doesn’t mean that right should be taken away from everybody else.”

Pro-lifers have been anticipating this moment for 50 years, proclaimed the Lynnwood-based Family Policy Institute of Washington.

“Our efforts to protect the unborn are no longer hindered by a fallacious and evil ruling that invented a non-existent ‘right,’” the group said.

Republican Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane called it “one of the most momentous days in American history for the dignity and sanctity of every human life.”

Abortion activists and Democrats voiced outrage and vowed to make this is an issue in the fall elections across the nation.

“Make no mistake — this decision goes beyond abortion,” said Jennifer M. Allen, CEO of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates. “This is about who has power over you, who has the authority to make decisions for you, and who can control your future. This is a dark day for our country, but our fight is far from over.”

Democratic Congresswoman Suzan DelBene of Medina called it “a demoralizing and terrifying day for America. This decision represents the culmination of a decades-long effort by Republicans to undermine the basic human rights of millions of Americans, their privacy and their bodily autonomy.”

The ruling will not impede access to abortion in Washington where protections were first chiseled into law more than half a century ago. Now, as a sanctuary for abortion access, Washington can expect an influx of out-of-state patients seeking care.

Washington was the first state in which voters approved a referendum legalizing early pregnancy abortions. That was 1970.

In 1991, voters narrowly approved Initiative 120, declaring a woman has a right to choose a physician-performed abortion prior to fetal viability.

In recent years, Democrats have held majorities in both chambers of the Legislature and the governor’s office. They have used their political muscle to expand protections.

In 2018, Gov. Jay Inslee signed the Reproductive Parity Act, requiring all health plans that offer maternity care services to also cover abortion and contraception. This past session, he signed the Affirm Washington Abortion Access Act, allowing advanced practice clinicians, like nurse practitioners and physician assistants, to provide abortion care. The law is intended to ensure there will be medical professionals in rural Washington who can provide services.

“Let me be clear: While I am governor, abortion will remain legal and accessible for all people here in Washington state,” Inslee said in an email to political supporters Friday.

Inslee and some Democratic legislators want to enact a constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights in Washington state. That would make it harder to overturn existing protections. It is also a greater political challenge as it requires supermajority support in the Legislature to get on the ballot, and then voters would need to pass it.

Senate Minority Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, on Friday said “better support for pregnant women who choose to give birth should be a common goal for all of us, regardless of our politics.”

“Compassion and empathy, rather than hostility, should be the universal approach,” he said in a statement. “I’m hoping this is how we all move forward.”

Washington, Oregon and California are among 16 states where abortion access is explicitly protected by law. On Friday, the governors of those three states formed a united front to defend access to reproductive health care, including abortion and contraceptives.

“We will not stand on the sidelines as these attacks mount,” they wrote in their two-page “Multi State Commitment to Reproductive Freedom.”

Attorney General Bob Ferguson, a Democrat, said the decision “will strain Washington’s health care network” as people come from Idaho and other states that ban abortion.

He vowed to “ensure Washington welcomes any individual who comes here to access the fundamental right to reproductive justice” and will work to protect medical professionals who are prosecuted in other states for providing essential health care services that are protected in Washington.

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers, a Democrat, said Congress needs to step in and restore federal protections erased by the court.

“This is a sad day,” he said. “There are millions of women across America who now will no longer have a fundamental freedom they had for nearly half a century. These fundamental, life-altering decisions need to be made by each individual in light of their own health status, religious beliefs and personal convictions.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dospueblos.

Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @reporterbrown.

Ellen Dennis: 425-339-3486; edennis@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @reporterellen.

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