BYLINE: Pete Reinwald


Newswise — TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Deana Rohlinger, a Florida State University professor of sociology and an expert on political participation and social movements, said she expects mass protests stemming from Friday’s news that the U.S. Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that gave women a right to choose an abortion before fetal viability. 

The new ruling allows states to set their own abortion laws. 

“Whether these protests turn violent will depend in part on how states respond,” Rohlinger said. “In states that are looking to restrict abortion or (outlaw) abortion altogether, those may be the states where we see some violent episodes between protesters and police.” 

The Supreme Court’s decision could prompt almost half of the states to severely restrict or outlaw abortion, according to reports. 

Rohlinger, an associate dean in the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy and the research director at the FSU Institute of Politics, said protesters tend to “escalate their tactics and become more confrontational when they feel there are no options available to them or if the government tries to repress them in some way.” 

“Violence is much more likely in those instances,” she said. 

Rohlinger expressed such insight and more in a May analysis in the Washington Post. She wrote the article in the wake of a leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion that suggested the court would overturn Roe v. Wade. 

“Given what we know about protest, we might expect abortion rights activism to become increasingly confrontational if, for example, Republicans take control of Congress and the White House in the next two national elections,” she wrote. “Without political allies, abortion rights supporters might use confrontational tactics, such as blockades, and violence to disrupt daily life and press politicians to make abortion available.” 

For the November midterm elections, Rohlinger said Friday, voters remain chiefly concerned about economic issues, including rising food and gas prices and inflation. Yet the overturning of Roe v. Wade could galvanize supporters of abortion rights “just the way Roe was galvanizing for the pro-life movement 50 years ago,” she said. 

“This could have a similar effect on people who are concerned about women’s reproductive rights and health, so we could certainly see a more robust movement develop around the issue, and it could potentially become something that helps motivate people to go to the polls.” 

News organizations can contact Rohlinger at [email protected]. 

  • Patricia Homan is another expert on the topic from FSU’s College of Social Sciences and Public Policy. She’s an assistant professor and associate director of the Public Health Program, and her interests include medical sociology, population health, gender, stratification/inequality and aging. Homan can be reached at [email protected].