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Statement on the US Supreme Court’s Overturning of Roe v. Wade

Today the US Supreme Court ruled to strike down Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision, which guaranteed federal constitutional protections for abortion rights. We are disturbed by and condemn this reversal of progress and hard-won civil rights around bodily autonomy, a reversal that will affect members of our staff and community deeply.

Threats to abortion rights are not disconnected from the history of forced sterilization of women of color, the criminalization of queer and trans bodies, white supremacist “replacement” rhetoric, the lack of legislation that might protect our children from gun violence, or the state-sanctioned murder and subjugation of marginalized communities the world over. To frame the conversation as one strictly impacting women (which is already half of the population), when this does not account for the violent history of the United States, the systemic policing of marginalized bodies, and the diversity of birthing bodies, would not capture the full impact of this devastating decision. 

To say and do nothing would go against our mission and vision, which aim to deepen visitors’ engagement with today’s art and ideas and stimulate community conversations by applying inclusive and equitable perspectives to our collections and the histories they embody. We aspire to serve as a forum that encourages community and conversation.

Because of this, we are speaking out to condemn today’s decision. 

We will continue to amplify the voices and labor of individuals (artists, activists, scholars, and community leaders) who speak to the interconnectedness of the numerous threats to bodily autonomy in the United States. The concerted effort to police bodies in support of a white, heterosexual, cisgender, and patriarchal hegemony is less an outlier than a continuation of the practices of genocide, slavery, and exploitation that form the foundation of the United States of America. We will continue to offer a platform for ideas that speak to our stated goals as an institution.

We will also continue to highlight the theme of bodily autonomy on our social media channels. In collaboration with our curatorial team, we are identifying and sharing artworks from our collections and exhibitions that speak to this topic. An example is our recent post about Alice Neel’s ​​Marxist Girl (Irene Peslikis), 1972, on the de Young’s social channels, which highlighted Peslikis’s involvement in the Redstockings abortion speak-out and its relevance to the current moment.

Below, we share a list of resources and links to other organizations actively advocating for issues related to bodily autonomy, both locally and nationally:

Resources and Organizations

Our Commitment

In 2020, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco made a commitment to becoming an anti-racist museum. We are intentionally working to dismantle white supremacy culture within our organization and offer our museums as spaces for community conversation, actively engaging in difficult discussions and listening generously. As part of this cultural shift within our institution, we are still actively working on when and how to respond to social issues as well as how to create a platform to spark community engagement. We are not always going to make the right decisions, and our actions are not a one-size-fits-all approach. We are committed to learning from our missteps and our community as we continue to shift our institutional culture. 

We stand with the dissenting justices on the Supreme Court, who write: “In overruling Roe and Casey, this Court betrays its guiding principles. With sorrow — for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection — we dissent.”