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'We are going to see a major shift' | Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade opinion could threaten other rights

Advocates and legal experts said other rights not enshrined in constitutional law, like gay marriage and access to contraceptives, could be at risk.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — After a draft of a Supreme Court opinion that would overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling guaranteeing people in the U.S. would have access to abortion treatments, advocates say other rights could also be at risk.

The legal reasoning in the draft could threaten the rights of millions of Americans. It argued that the right to abortion treatment access was not a "substantive due process liberty," which the 14th Amendment guarantees. Previous court rulings called access to contraception, interracial marriage and same-sex marriage "substance due process liberties" as well.

So, if the court throws out the 49-year-old decision in Roe v. Wade, some experts and advocates are concerned it could also threaten other rights that were guaranteed with the same legal reasoning in the court.

"We are going to see a major shift in a way that we have not seen in all of our lifetimes with the Supreme Court taking away rights, versus giving them and protecting people," said Don Bosch, an attorney.

However, one lawmaker said he agreed with the Supreme Court's draft. Rep. John Ragan (R - Oak Ridge) has introduced several anti-transgender and anti-LGBTQ legislation in the past. Some of those bills barred people from playing on athletic teams that aligned with their gender identity.

Another bill he introduced would ban gender-affirming surgeries and hormone therapies for minors, while also allowing parents to pull their children from any kind of mental healthcare treatment that deals with gender dysphoria. Experts and advocates said it would further harm transgender people across the state.

He supported the Supreme Court's decision and said he thought laws about abortion treatment access should be a state's right to decide. He also said he did not think rights like gay marriage, interracial marriage and contraception access were protected by the U.S. Constitution. 

"Everything is at stake," said Josie Russell, the founder of the Appalachian LGBT Chamber of Commerce. "If you are not part of a certain political party, or a political ideology, or a certain class, or a certain race, or a certain religion — it is all fair game at this point."

Her nonprofit works to establish a formal LGBTQ-focused Chamber of Commerce serving East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. She said that every member of the LGBTQ community has a reason to worry about their rights if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

"They see that there is a very dangerous precedent that the court could potentially put into place, so my advice is that they reconsider this ill-advised and foolhardy opinion," she said.

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