Today, our worst fears were realized as the Supreme Court of the United States released a majority decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, gutting Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood, and rolling back 50 years of hard-fought progress to ensure a constitutionally-protected right to safe abortions and reproductive health care. Though not a surprise, this ruling is still shocking. We now stand at the beginning of a cascade of horrific short- and long-term ramifications, including immediate bans on abortion in many states, criminalization of abortion in some jurisdictions, and the potential unraveling of the foundation of a constitutional right to privacy upon which is based everything from protected access to contraception to the freedom to marry.
At Proteus Fund, we view this not as a single-issue, stand-alone development, but rather as one facet of a multi-decade, well-choreographed movement to strip fundamental rights from the U.S. Constitution, eliminate the separation of church and state, and undermine the ability of courts to defend democratic norms. In short, this is part of the increasingly successful right-wing assault against American democracy. This is why for many years now Proteus Fund has been building our initiatives to fight back against the weaponization of religion to discriminate against women and LGBTQ people and the systematic undermining of an independent judiciary at the state level.
Our Rights, Faith and Democracy Collaborative and Piper Fund grantees have been on the frontlines of these fights at the state level. For years, Proteus has been making investments in grassroots and advocacy groups to build community and persuasive power to not only push back against all the elements of this human dignity undermining agenda, but also push for reforms based on a vision of a fully representative and functional democracy – one that fiercely protects all reproductive needs, balances the right to freedom of religion with all of the other equally important rights, and operates on the basis of an independent judiciary empowered to protect this full array of rights.
For example, recognizing the likely ruling and impact of Dobbs v. JWHO, earlier this year, we proactively curated a series of convenings between state-level reproductive justice, LGBTQ rights, and independent state courts activists to plan for today’s decision months ahead of time. As a result, Proteus made 37 rapid response grants to state-based organizations across 14 states working on reproductive justice, LGBTQ rights, and independent state courts to support their preparation and response to today’s decision. The support we provided our grantees and their allies also included targeted messaging support around reproductive rights and democracy to counteract the very powerful effect of harmful narratives which justify the elimination of both rights and independent institutions that can protect them.
Today’s ruling is a massive defeat, especially for women and members of the trans community who have now had federal protection of control over their own bodies and major, private life choices stolen by six ideological “operatives” carefully placed on the Supreme Court specifically to achieve this end. But we will not accept this outcome.
For philanthropy, we urge in the strongest terms possible that funders draw new clarity of purpose and exponentially support the power of cross-movement work and organizing. Our sector must take a stand in favor of robust human and civil rights and a representative and robust democracy that will protect and expand these rights and communities consistently targeted and disenfranchised from full membership in society. Funders should work together to ensure:
We hope you will join us and work with each other with a sense of urgency. More than ever, we are committed to strengthening the efforts of advocates as they work to protect access to safe abortion care, defend against radical lawmakers’ attempts to pass dangerous legislation and weaken individual freedoms guaranteed by state constitutions, and insulate state courts from political pressures since many will be a last defense against attacks on people’s rights and autonomy.
Paul Di Donato
President & CEO