On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court released its decision on Dobbs v. Jackson, a Mississippi case questioning the constitutionality of a state abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The Supreme Court decided that the constitution does not specifically state the right to an abortion. Roe v. Wade, a ruling that had solidified the constitutional right to an abortion in the United States since 1973, was overturned the same day.
Due to trigger laws already in place, abortion was banned immediately in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Alabama once the official ruling went into effect. The bans in these states, as well as the Texas, Idaho, West Virginia, Indiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee bans that followed do not make exceptions for incest or rape.
Members of the USF community have been reflecting on the role that their city and state play in this federal discourse and learning how best to grapple with reproductive rights. USF students from states with abortion bans can attest to the ruling’s impact on their lives.
Mari Quinton, a third-year performing arts and social justice major, is a Texas native who was affected by the ruling. “I’m thinking of myself and my friends back home because as you get older you start to get more into your sexuality, and now people are putting limits on our bodies,” she said. “I think if we can change our governor we have a chance of saving abortion rights. Texas has been close to becoming a blue state before.”
Mason Ward, a fourth-year business major currently on a leave of absence, is also from Texas. They said they were disappointed, but not surprised, by the ruling. “How could a group of people be so blinded by whatever they believe in?” They said. “How are they ok denying abortion from victims of sexual assault and forcing them to go through with, what I can only assume, would be a severely traumatic experience on top of what they’ve already been through?”
Meanwhile, states like Oregon and Washington have expanded their abortion access, making them “safe haven” states for those seeking an abortion. Kelsey Parker, a first-year communications major, is from Oregon, spoke about how this affects her. “I feel really privileged, but at the same time, I don’t like that this has now become something I’m privileged in,” she said. “It’s a really shitty feeling.”
Expanding abortion access is also a priority in California. Proposition 1 is on the ballot for the November election and aims to include abortion in the state’s constitution. “California is one of three states that has a ballot proposal in November that will actually protect abortion, as an amendment to the state constitution. It will protect reproductive freedoms,” said Sarah Burgess, an associate professor of communication, critical diversity, and gender and sexualities studies.
Earlier this month, the California Legislature passed a slew of bills that protect those seeking or providing abortions from prosecution in their state of origin, and expand access to abortions by allowing trained nurses to perform them without the supervision of a physician.
Although California defines itself as a ‘safe haven,’ not everyone in the state, and not everyone on the Hilltop, is supportive of this statewide initiative.
In a statement to the Foghorn, Fr. Christopher Kirill Sokolov, Chaplain for the student-led Orthodox Christian Fellowship at USF, shared his thoughts on the Supreme Court’s decision.
“Our students are of course interested in important issues like Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision and we have had, in the past, robust discussions around abortion,” he said. “Recently, the Assembly of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in this land addressed the issue of abortion and reminded us that any deliberate ending of human life is a rejection of its sacredness and inviolability and is unacceptable. The Church mourns the premature end of a human life, and we seek to minister with compassion and mercy in these situations.”
For others on the Hilltop, this moment presents an opportunity for change. “At this moment, we need to fight, and we need to fight for a larger conception of reproductive freedom,” Burgess said. “A reproductive freedom that will center the voices of those that have been marginalized by the abortion debate, typically BIPOC people.”
Burgess also spoke to the concern surrounding Roe v. Wade’s established “right to privacy,” which was used as the basis for a number of legal decisions. Its newfound lack opens the door for overturning other legislation, like the right to same-sex marriage. “I think the generation of students right now really has an opportunity to become politically engaged and to fight, not only for specific rights, but to form intersectional coalitions that really push for rights to be protected,” Burgess said.
Fr. Kirill offered a response to concerned students too. “Reach out — don’t isolate. Talk to a trusted friend or spiritual advisor or counselor,” he said. “Advocate for your views but also practice real true listening to those around you and those who may have strong feelings or may be suffering around you. We should always look for ways to take care of one another.”
University spokesperson Kellie Samson said that USF’s leaders and Catholic theologians “seek to explain and defend the teachings of the Catholic Church,” while staying true to the University’s mission to welcome and support students from all backgrounds.
On campus, students can contact Health Promotion Services (HPS), which offers “support and services to members of our USF community who become pregnant,” said Natalie Macias, director of HPS. Students can book appointments to address healthcare needs, academic support, housing, financial assistance, and counseling. “We are dedicated to offering any student who is faced with the issues of pregnancy a supportive environment that is caring, compassionate, respectful, and non-judgmental.”
The Foghorn will continue its coverage of legislation pertaining to reproductive rights as California enters its midterm election this fall.
Megan Robertson is the Foghorn’s news editor and a third-year media studies and performing arts and social justice double major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Zoe Binder, a fourth-year English and environmental studies double major, is the Foghorn’s editor in chief. She can be reached at email@example.com.