Friday 24th June 2022 was a dark day for human rights in the United States of America, as a ruling by the US Supreme Court threw out 50 years of legal precedent and overturned the historic Roe v. Wade ruling from the early 1970s that made abortions legal across the US. With trigger laws immediately coming into effect in numerous states to immediately ban abortions, a number of major game developers and publishers have spoken out in favour of abortion rights as being fundamentally about healthcare and privacy, some also pledging to financially support employees whom these laws affect.
The new ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has decided that the US Constitution does not confer any right to abortion, overruling both Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) in the process. There are now bans in effect in Utah, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Montana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kentucky, Alabama and Loisiana, many of which have no exceptions for rape or incest, some not even to save the life of the woman. Similar bans will also come into effect in Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, Wyoming within the next month. Ohio, Arizona, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina all have strict limitations. That’s 21 of the 50 US states with 9 others in Republican hands.
In a seeming about-face after previously leaked emails from PlayStation boss Jim Ryan, Sony’s North American studios all had public messages about this, including Insomniac. Bend Studio, Bluepoint, Sucker Punch, Naughty Dog, Santa Monica Studio and San Diego Studio. They’ve also been joined by European studios Media Molecule, Guerilla Games, and PlayStation London Studio.
Other popular game developers and publishers have also had statements, with Bethesda, Ubisoft, EA, Xbox, Devolver Digital and others all voicing their support for freedom of choice. As Double Fine (who was one of the first to speak out when the court’s plans leaked last month) said, “Overturning Roe v Wade constitutes a direct assault on people’s safety and rights. Your body is your body. We encourage donations to local funds/organisations that will stand up for these rights”.
Some studios, such as the soon-to-be-a-part-of-Sony Bungie have given a blanket support for their employees to reimburse them for necessary travel to receive healthcare. In an update to their public statement made last month, Bungie said, “for any employee to use when they or a dependent cannot get access to the healthcare they need where they live. We remain undeterred in our commitment to stand up for reproductive choice and liberty.”
These pledges have been made previously by a number of companies – Microsoft, for example, across its entire business, and Naughty Dog – but many game developers and their employees are currently “safe” from this litigious disaster, as they’re based in California, Washington and other Democrat-leaning states. However, game development can and does happen all over the US, and developers in states where trigger laws have already come into effect, and in states like Texas, Georgia or North Carolina where they will happen or will likely be pushed through by Republican governments.
The thing is that this isn’t just about abortions, with the US Supreme Court ruling giving a glimpse into a frankly horrifying future of human and civil rights decline in what’s meant to be the ‘Land of the Free’.
Justice Clarence Thomas – whose wife Wirginia Thomas has been heavily implicated in the attempts to overturn the 2020 Presidential election results and the failed January 6th attack on the US Capitol – wrote a concurring argument that the court should now reconsider previous rulings inlcuding Griswold v. Connecticut, which gave the right to contraception in 1965, Obergefell v. Hodges, which allows same-sex marriages in 2015, and Lawrence v. Texas, which banned laws against anal and/or oral sex in 2003 and was heavily based on the right to privacy that Roe v. Wade once gave.
Saying that you’re coming for these specific rights at the end of LGBTQ+ Pride Month is a hell of a choice.
All of this from a group of Republican judges who uniformly stated under oath during confirmation hearings that they considered Roe v. Wade to be settled law and that the precedent that it gave would be upheld. They’re despicable.
Hopefully the protests run long and continue to ring clear without the waters being muddied, because the only way back from this brink is for the Democrats to get significant enough majorities in the midterm elections in November, and then actually follow through on their pledges to do something.
In the meantime, while protesting is one way of making you voice heard, there’s also organisations that support rights to healthcare including:
- Abortion Funds
- The Brigid Alliance
- Plan C
- URGE (Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity)
- Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
- NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation
- In Our Own Voice
- Trans Lifeline