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Students, faculty reflect on Roe v. Wade decision 3 months later

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark decision Roe v. Wade this June.  – Photo by Bill Mason / Unsplash

On June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade, a statute passed in 1973 to give women the constitutional right to have an abortion. 

The most recent ruling, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, gave states the ability to individually make their own decisions regarding banning or limiting abortion access.

Now, a few months after the ruling, Rutgers students and faculty discussed its aftermath and their thoughts on this landmark decision. Cassandra Vega, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said she found the statute to be disturbing and unsurprising.

She stated that a majority of Americans had agreed on people having the innate right to healthcare, including abortions, and she said officials who were not elected by this majority and who are not bound by term limits made banning that right immoral.

“I fear for the people who have been told by America that their lives and autonomy do not matter,” Vega said. “I am fearful for all the people who will be violated and forced to carry a living reminder of the worst moment in their lives.”

Rebecca Mark, director of the Institute for Women’s Leadership at Rutgers and a professor in the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, said the structure of the Court was impacted by Republican ideology and far-Right conservatives opposing abortion.

She said former President Donald J. Trump was able to use this reasoning to appoint three justices to the Court that he believed would most likely decide on overturning Roe, invalidating the Court’s origins as being politically impartial.

“In part IV of his majority opinion, (Justice Samuel Alito) wrote that the Court 'cannot allow our decisions to be affected by any extraneous influences such as concern about the public's reaction to our work,’” Mark said. “The public, in this case, 61 percent pro-choice, is what makes up ‘we the people’ in a democracy.”

In response to the overturning, President Joseph R. Biden Jr. issued an executive order on August 3, which established the Interagency Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access, aimed at supporting individuals traveling out of state for medical care and making sure health care providers comply with non-discrimination laws.

Mark said while the executive power of the president cannot be applied to protect abortion rights constitutionally, it can be used to assuage the immediate health care issues brought about by the decision.

Vega said Biden’s executive order should have been enacted far sooner and its delay caused permanent damage to many individuals. Congress should now pass a national law protecting people’s right to reproductive services, she said.

“People must have bodily autonomy and be able to make informed decisions for themselves, starting with codifying Roe and (Planned Parenthood v. Casey),” Vega said.

In agreement, Olivia Parker, a Rutgers Business School sophomore, said that access to abortion must be codified into federal law and that states must work to protect practices that provide access to abortions.

Without these measures in place, she said several states are likely to restrict access entirely to abortion. Parker said the ruling will have a further impact on certain demographics than others.

“It is also essential to remember that people of color and people of a lower socioeconomic status are disproportionately targeted by the overturning of Roe v. Wade because of systemic barriers within our health care system and political system at large,” she said.

Amber Thane, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said the overturning of Roe will most affect Black and Brown women as they have disproportionately high unintended pregnancy and abortion rates. She said as a Black woman, she is afraid of how this ruling will impact her and other Black women.

Black women accounted for 38.4 percent of abortions in 2019 and had the highest abortion rate at 23.8 abortions per 1,000 women, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Women are already victims of non-consensual and unintended pregnancies, especially Black and Brown women, but to think that if I were to find myself in a situation where I am pregnant and despite emotional, financial, medical concerns I must bring the pregnancy to term is deeply saddening,” Thane said.

She said that she hopes Rutgers will examine its policies regarding providing medical care such as abortions to out-of-state students, in light of the ruling.

Caitlyn Carlson, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said that as a resident of New Jersey, women still have the right to Planned Parenthood and abortion rights through state laws.

She said that she was empathetic toward individuals from other parts of the country such as southern states where more people may want to restrict access to abortions. 

Parker said that the overall decision overall will only decrease the number of safe abortions being performed and will even prevent physicians from being able to perform the procedure for pregnant individuals, in case of life-threatening complications.

“Abortion is healthcare,” she said. “Denying this medical procedure because of these archaic laws being put into place is a death sentence, and it is completely and utterly unacceptable.”

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