On June 24, 2022, the United States Supreme Court issued its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women Health Organization, which held that the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion. Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey are overruled, and States may now regulate abortion. In other words, the Dobbs decision stripped away a pre-existing constitutional right, abandoned a 50-year precedent, and will now allow states to ban abortions altogether.
How Can Nonprofits Weigh-In
Nonprofit organizations have a right to speak up and act in response to the Dobbs decision.
As part of their advocacy efforts, public charities can lobby so long as they stay within their lobbying limits, and they can join forces with 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations to engage in nonpartisan advocacy that defends the right to choose. In light of the Dobbs decision, they can actively advocate to state legislatures for the passage of laws that expand abortion access at the state level or lobby against bills that would take abortion decisions out of the hands of patients and their doctors.
Nonprofits can also work to change the law by supporting ballot measures that would guarantee abortion access at the state-level or opposing those that would restrict it. While advocacy in support or opposition of ballot measures does qualify as lobbying, many public charities can maximize their lobbying limits by making the 501(h) election. For more on the 501(h) election and public charity lobbying limits, see Bolder Advocacy’s Being a Player publication.
Nonprofits can advocate in other ways as well. For example, nonprofits can write op-eds, draft a petition demanding change, or work with local district attorneys to ensure that those who receive or perform abortions are not subject to criminal prosecution. For more information and ideas on how to safely and boldly advocate for the cause please see our following resources:
- Reproductive Rights Toolkit
- Nonprofits Have a Right and Responsibility to Respond to Dobbs v. JWHO (Blog and One-Pager)
- #StoptheBans (Blog)
Potential Legislative Proposals in the Wake of Dobbs
Many states and organizations have already begun to pursue legislation to protect abortion access. Some proposals include:
- Codifying Roe v. Wade: Codifying Roe v. Wade at the federal level would affirm a pregnant person’s right to an abortion without undue interference and restrictions from the government.
- Ending the Filibuster: The filibuster is a procedure used by the Senate in which senators can invoke their right to unlimited debate. Often it is used to prolong debate on a piece of proposed legislation to delay a decision or keep it off the floor indefinitely. By ending the filibuster or creating a carve-out so that it cannot be used to stop legislation protecting abortion access, legislators could more efficiently pass federal legislation to codify Roe v. Wade.
- State level legislation: States like Washington, Oregon, Vermont, New York, California, Illinois, and Connecticut have legislation in place that protects reproductive rights and freedoms. Citizens and organizations in the remaining states should advocate for legislation that would protect a pregnant person’s right to personal autonomy. This advocacy could happen at the state legislature but remember that many states allow citizens to place measures on the ballot for consideration by the voting public.
Now we must consider what is in store for the future in the wake of the Dobbs decision. The Court’s decision is a blatant violation of personal autonomy and could lead to the erosion of several other constitutional rights. This is why nonprofits should use their platforms to take a stand against injustice. It is time that we the people reclaim our power.
Today, we fight, and tomorrow… we fight again.