While Amber Sherrill was tending to her aging mother last Friday, the two watched in disbelief as news of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe V. Wade went public, thus ending a healthcare right held by women for 50 years.

And when Jennifer Savage woke that Friday to celebrate her daughter's 14th birthday, the “fierce, strong and independent” young woman would be rendered a "second-class citizen" by day's end, holding fewer rights than did the women before her.

Both Sherrill and Savage, two members of the Missoula City Council, joined several of their peers on Monday in expressing frustration over the high court's decision. The question now is whether that anger is held by the wider public and if it will translate to votes at the polls this November.

Elections have consequences, they affirmed, and unless voters act, women won't be “capable of making decisions” for their own bodies thanks to six members of a “politically motivated” court.

“This means the highest court in this county doesn't believe women are capable of making decisions for our bodies, lives and families,” said Sherrill. “If you've not paid attention to elections around the country, it's time to start.”

Sherrill said the high court's decision won't stop abortions, only safe abortions. It won't stop those with privilege and means from finding abortion care, though it will stop those with fewer means from finding the care they need.

“My mother, who in her time marched and protested for women's equality, sits with me watching news coverage as her granddaughters are stripped of the rights she helped ensure for her own daughter,” Sherrill said. “It's hard for both of us to get our minds around it.”

Montanans march on the state capitol to protest the recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions banning abortions. (Sam Hoyle/MTN News)
Montanans march on the state capitol to protest the recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions banning abortions. (Sam Hoyle/MTN News)

Some states were poised to act after the Supreme Court's decision and had trigger laws in place, making abortion illegal nearly overnight. Montana wasn't among them, though its Republican majority has stated its intention to act.

Abortion remains legal in Montana and is protected by privacy under the state's Constitution, at least for now.

Senate President Mark Blasdel, R-Kalispell, and House Majority Leader Sue Vinton, R-Billings, have already turned their attention to the Montana Supreme Court, saying “all eyes in Montana need to be on our own judicial branch of government.”

If women are to retain their right to make healthcare decisions on their own behalf, then voting for pro-choice candidates will be vital, council members said.

“This decision has been put back on the states, and there are a lot of states in this country who have trigger laws or want to enact trigger laws,” said council member Stacie Anderson. “Local elections matter and paying attention to those is just as important. The number of people who don't vote is astounding. If you were out protesting and you didn't bother to vote, then we need to have a serious conversation. If you don't vote, you can't complain.”

On Friday, June 24, council member Jennifer Savage's daughter turned 14. By day's end, the world had changed around her. Retaining her daughter's healthcare rights in Montana may be an uphill climb, though Savage said it's not impossible, and polls suggest she may be right.

Abortion rights receive broad national support across the American electorate. In two polls from May, Gallup found that 85% believe abortion should be legal in all or some circumstances, with the Pew Research Center reporting 61%.

“She woke up to a world in which she has fewer rights than her grandmothers,” said Savage. “She's moving up and forward, fierce and strong, while it seems the world is moving backward. She deserves more than what the Supreme Court handed down to her on her birthday. I can't yet summons the energy to scream at the top of my lungs at the injustice of a court that sees me and my daughters as less than full citizens.”