At the beginning of May this year, a majority opinion draft from the Supreme Court was leaked for an abortion case Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health. The draft stated that the majority of the court favored overturning Roe v Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion. Of course, this was just a draft, for decisions are typically released in June before the Court’s summer recess. However, it seemed pretty likely that the conservative court would form a majority in favor of overturning Roe. The draft scared millions across the country as female-bodied people and citizens in conservative states worried about how this decision will impact their lives. And now that the decision is official as of June 24th, this fear has become a reality.
The majority of Americans support Roe v. Wade, 64% according to a poll from NPR, PBS NewsHour, and Marist. Many other sources have also reported that the majority of Americans support the 1973 decision. And given typical political trends, younger people tend to be more liberal and more pro-choice. Many young people across the country are worried about this decision, especially current and incoming college students. An already more liberal demographic, there are reasons that this decision is scaring students, and this decision will likely play another factor in future college admissions. Colleges need to respond to this reversal with solutions both for the benefit of their students as well as their future competitiveness.
Students are worried. For Tulane University, different offices put out notices both following the leak and the official decision. On May 18th, Tulane Campus Health emailed students regarding the leak after many students asked questions about their future access to reproductive health services. Campus Health’s response was that nothing had changed at the moment and that they will continue to provide updates. However, they recognized that many students were concerned, so they provided numbers for support services on campus. Then on May 26th, Tulane’s Title IX Office made an Instagram post about pregnancy in college in response to the leak. The post summarized Title IX provisions that prevent schools with state funding to discriminate against students based on pregnancy-related things. The post also explained how students who become pregnant can get the help they need on campus.
When the decision was finally overturned, the Dean of Students Erica Woodley emailed students. She said that “Tulane will continue to support the university community’s healthcare needs, including those involving reproductive health, to the fullest extent allowed by law” and also provided information for support services on campus to help worried students. Unfortunately in Louisiana, there really isn’t much Tulane can do to help students, and the “fullest extent allowed by the law” will become very restrictive. However, the responses surely were not reassuring to worried students.
Of course, this is just Tulane University officials responding to their students’ questions and concerns. While Tulane is in liberal New Orleans and is a more liberal school compared to other colleges in the South, young people all around the country are concerned about how the Court’s decision will impact their reproductive health. Great academics and Mardi Gras may not be enough to help Tulane admissions. Students applying in the future may be wary about applying to schools if they have limited reproductive rights in that state. As a result, schools in states with anti-abortion laws may see a change in their admissions. As schools in these states have become more competitive and bring in students from more liberal areas of the country, this decision may reverse some of their competitiveness.
The issue regarding abortion will continue to have profound impacts on lower-income people who may not be able to afford attending school out of state. Students in conservative states may still go to college in-state for financial reasons but risk their access to abortion services. However, there may be students who forgo higher education or try to attend school out-of-state just to avoid the financial risks. Wealthier students may be able to fly home to their liberal state to get an abortion, but not all students have this privilege. Higher-income students will have more freedom to choose where they go, not having to worry as much about the financial risks of attending school in a state with stricter abortion laws. Overturning Roe will create more inequalities than we may have initially realized.
An article from USA Today wrote about the impact of the Court’s decision on female athletes. Female athletes may have to factor abortion laws into their decision of what schools they want to play for. Of course, an unwanted pregnancy during college can impact a woman’s future career. For athletes, this impact is especially profound given that their career is based on their physical abilities since pregnancy will impact their ability to train as intensely. The impact on athletes will affect schools with high-ranking athletic programs and teams, many of which are in states with restrictive abortion laws.
There needs to be action from universities to help students of all socioeconomic backgrounds to receive access to the healthcare they so desire. Abortion has become a highly politicized issues when it shouldn’t be. Colleges need to push past the politics and acknowledge the students’ fears about the post-Roe era. Helping students have access to abortion services (and maybe contraception if that goes too) will make students less fearful and more safe about their experiences in college, and this in turn will help colleges maintain their competitiveness in admissions.