SCOTUS Ruling Underscores Urgent Need to Protect Abortion Access and Create a Cross-Movement Response to the Assault on Constitutional Rights and Democracy

SCOTUS Ruling Underscores Urgent Need to Protect Abortion Access and Create a Cross-Movement Response to the Assault on Constitutional Rights and Democracy - Proteus Fund

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:

  • Significant increase in investments, including where and when possible coordinated grantmaking to ensure adequate resources – without endless strings attached – for the work ahead
    An end to funding silos that undermine the ability of movements impacted by the same dynamics — the weaponization of religion to erode rights, racism, and patriarchy — to think and act intersectionally and thus more effectively
  • A focus on local and state-level organizations that are closest to the ground and represent the front lines of the efforts that will be needed to begin to turn this tide
  • An appreciation that areas of work such as narrative development, strategic communications, and organizing are “must-have” essential capacities for organizations to effectively do the work we support them to do
  • Significant enhancement of rapid response grantmaking capacity to meet the dynamic and, at times, desperate needs of organizations in our current social and political climate
  • Authentic and robust responsiveness to the needs of organizations and communities as articulated by them

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
Proteus Fund

If you would like to learn more about the Proteus Fund’s efforts to uphold an inclusive, fully representative vision of democracy in the United States, please contact Kathy Bonnifield, Co-Intermin Director of Piper Fund, at or Amardeep Singh, Vice President of Programs, at