Temple students, professors fearful following the reversal of Roe v. Wade

In response to last week’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, students are shocked and nervous for the future.

Protesters gather outside of the United States Supreme Court Building on Sept. 27, 2018. | WIKIMEDIA / COURTESY

Updated 6/29 at 7:45 p.m.

Temple encouraged students to utilize support from Tuttleman Counseling Services, and direct health care questions to Student Health Services, according to a statement from Ken Kaiser, chief operating officer.

The university also recommended that employees utilize the Employee Assistance Program and contact the university’s Benefits Administration with questions about health benefits.

“I don’t think I’ll ever forget where I was when I found out,” said Kayla Paul-Koch, a senior communication studies major. “It was just so shocking to find out that it was really happening and it wasn’t a joke anymore.”

Last week, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to overturn Roe v. Wade, a 1973 landmark decision that protected women’s right to abortion, leaving Temple University students fearful of the future of their reproductive rights and the rights of loved ones. 

Gregory Mandel, provost and senior vice president, Ken Kaiser, chief operating officer, and Michael Young, president and chief executive officer of Temple University Health System will provide information about support for individuals with health care and mental health questions, wrote President Jason Wingard in an announcement to the Temple community Wednesday.

“While we continue to review the impact of this landmark decision, several tenets remain steadfast: Temple is, and will always be, committed to the health and well-being of our community,” Wingard wrote.

The reversal of Roe v. Wade appeared in the Court’s opinion in the 6-3 ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which solidified the Court’s position that “the Constitution does not confer a right to an abortion,” according to the Court’s website. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization originated from Mississippi’s ban on all elective abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, which was signed into law on in March 2018. 

Tyler Brown, a junior history major, is upset by the reversal of Roe v. Wade because the court’s decision impacts his loved ones’ bodily autonomy.

“Seeing people who you care about feeling like they’re less free than they were before, I think that naturally makes you care a lot more strongly about an issue like this,” Brown said.

During Nadya Behrens’ 13 years as a Catholic school student, she was surrounded by people who supported pro-life policies, but maintained a pro-choice stance.

“I am a woman, who can get pregnant, who doesn’t know where I would be if I had to face this decision,” said Behrens, a senior speech, language and hearing science major.

The reversal wasn’t surprising to Patty Skuster because of the draft opinion leaked by POLITICO on May 2 that claimed Roe v. Wade must be overruled, she said.

“We were expecting it, but it feels devastating to actually read the opinion, to see it,” said Skuster, a law professor. “It’s law now that states are allowed to ban abortion.”

The court’s ruling will likely clear the way for 26 states to ban or restrict abortion. States with trigger laws, including Kentucky, Louisiana and South Dakota banned the procedure immediately after the ruling, Forbes reported.

Harneet Kaur, a junior health professions major, is worried how this decision may affect the future of other reproductive rights like contraception.

“Not only is abortion going to be restricted, but there’s also contraception which I’ve been heavily reliant on because I use birth control to regulate my hormones,” Kaur said. 

Justice Clarence Thomas filed a concurring opinion suggesting the court should reevaluate “due process precedents” in previous cases like Griswold v. Connecticut, Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell v. Hodges, rulings that protect the use of contraceptives and LGBTQ rights, including same-sex marriage.

The court’s decision will have implications on reproductive care at the state level, said Adrienne Ghorashi, a law and policy analyst at the Center for Public Health Law Research at the Beasley School of Law. 

While abortion is legal in Pennsylvania, there are existing barriers to accessing the procedure, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Abortions are banned at 24 weeks or later and patients must wait 24 hours after receiving counseling to undergo the procedure. State Medicaid doesn’t cover abortions except in limited circumstances, like rape, life endangerment or incest, and minors need parental consent. 

In November, Pennsylvanians will vote for governor, who has the power to veto or sign into law abortion-related bills from the Republican-controlled state legislature.

Senate Bill 378, sponsored by Republican Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate State Senator Doug Mastriano, was referred to the state Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee in 2021. The measure aims to prohibit abortions at and after 24 weeks if a physician detects a fetal heartbeat. 

Democratic nominee and current Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro vowed to veto abortion restrictions if elected.

“The entire future of the legal protection of abortion is up for debate in the governor’s race,” said Sara Contreras, a fourth-year graduate political science student and Ph.D candidate. “The state legislature already has been pushing some anti-choice bills to make abortion heavily restricted within the state, has been vetoed or struck down by our current governor.” 

Overturning Roe v. Wade will directly affect people of lower income and people of color because abortions are out-of-pocket costs, Ghorashi said.

For many with low-income, obtaining an abortion is difficult if they need to pay steep prices for travel, food and lodging, Contreras said. People living in areas with closing clinics will need to travel roughly more than 250 miles each way to access an abortion, Bloomberg reported.

However, in states where clinics remain open, there’s concerns that wait times for abortions will increase, said Bernie Newman, a social work professor.

“If we can’t gear up to meet that demand, there will also be a need for us to start raising funds for low income women to travel,” Newman said.

Abortion restrictions affects pregnancy outcomes and maternal mortality rates, Ghorashi added.

“The further you push out, access to abortion, that means that you’re subject to complications and complications of pregnancy,” Ghorashi said. “With complications in pregnancy and risk of maternal morbidity and mortality, all of those things are affected by the lack of abortion to access.” 

Despite new anti-abortion laws, safe abortions will still be accessible because reproductive rights organizations have been preparing for the overturning of Roe v. Wade, said Contreras who worked at Medical Students for Choice, a pro-choice nonprofit in Philadelphia, before pursuing her Ph.D.

“People have dedicated their entire lives to making safe abortion accessible in a clandestine setting and it’s happening in other parts of the world as well, where people are still getting safe abortions, even if it’s illegal,” Contreras said.

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