Within minutes of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on June 24th, abortion was banned in eight states. As panic sets in for women waiting to see how many other states will follow, and resources for safe reproductive healthcare dwindle across the country, the nation is grappling with the clear human rights and health care consequences of this decision. However, equally troubling, but less often discussed, are the criminal justice consequences of Dobbs v. Jackson.
The impact of this decision will hit low-income people the hardest. Disproportionately, the cost will be borne by women of color. As new classes of criminalized behavior related to reproductive health are codified, women living in society’s margins will be targeted, prosecuted, and punished. Loved ones, health care providers, and other caregivers seeking to offer comfort and assistance will find themselves in the crosshairs of this new war on reproductive health. A new frontier in the mass incarceration story will emerge. When these lives are thrown into the criminal justice machinery, they will need to depend on public defenders. Public defenders will represent the vast majority of people persecuted in this new war.
Gideon’s Promise exists to support the needs of public defenders who work zealously to end mass incarceration. With the Supreme Court’s recent ruling, public defenders will now be stretched even further as they work to navigate how marginalized women will be criminalized in their search for reproductive needs and resources. As an organization, we continue to marvel at the insatiable appetite for racism, sexism, and classism that never seems to be satisfied.
As we steel ourselves to reckon with a whole new class of people that will be drafted into the system and thrown into cages, support for public defenders is as critical as ever. The realities of mass incarceration just got more serious.
The mission of Gideon’s Promise is to transform the criminal legal system by building a movement of public defenders who provide equal justice for marginalized communities. While the Dobbs decision threatens to undermine this mission by further overwhelming a system already stretched woefully thin, our dedication to serving public defenders will not waiver. With your support and partnership, we will continue to keep the promise of supporting public defenders, and public defenders can keep their promise to reduce the effects of poverty, build stronger and more resilient communities, and keep families together.