The removal of the constitutional right to an abortion and the trickle-down effects it’s having on college students
On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court officially overturned Roe v. Wade, despite months of protest sparked by the online leak of Judge Alito’s opinion draft in May.
Upheld for decades, Roe v. Wade deemed abortion a constitutional right, making any conflicting law against abortion unconstitutional. The overturning of Roe grants states the power to create their own legislation regarding abortion.
In some states, such as Tennessee and Mississippi, trigger bans went into effect minutes after the ruling became official. These trigger bans, 13 in total, were implemented years ago with the intention of going into effect if Roe v. Wade was overturned in the future. A total of 26 states implemented their own trigger bans, which resulted in the closure of abortion clinics and new restrictions placed on clinics such as Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood released this statement to Newsweek just minutes after the overturning:
“We know you may be feeling a lot of things right now – hurt, anger, confusion. Whatever you feel is OK. We’re here with you – and we’ll never stop fighting for you.”
Julie Rickelman, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, forecasted legal crises between states, believing that “we will see far more litigation in the federal courts – not less litigation.”
Since states are implementing different legislation for citizens crossing state lines for varying abortion care needs, legal chaos may erupt between states.
The Washington Post reported that California, Oregon, and Washington have announced an abortion-rights partnership to transform the West Coast into a sanctuary for reproductive health care.
On the other hand, state legislation such as Chapter 5: Health Provisions of the state of Louisiana, allows the state to ban the right to an abortion if the Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade. This chapter of Louisiana’s law serves as one of the many examples of trigger laws written before the overturning.
Under the Full Faith and Credit Clause, states are required to maintain a measure of respect with the laws of other states as a part of a single nation. Applications of this clause usually involve marriage or family law, but abortion care, which served as a consitutional right for decades, hasn’t seen much state-to-state attention until now.
In June, California lawmakers passed a bill in response to the overturning which protects out-of-state citizens seeking abortion care from their native state’s criminal laws.
Although California has passed this legislation, lawmakers believe that these laws will hold no effect, as Dean Boyles writes in a letter to the California Assembly Judiciary Committee:
“California simply does not have the legal authority to ignore or reject the judgement of another state’s courts, including, but not limited to, those involving abortion.”
The battle between states over legislation regarding abortion has sparked fear amongst prospective students. Reporter Sharon Bernstein highlighted this fear in a Reuters interview with Sabrina Thaler, a 16-year-old high school student in Maryland.
“What if I go to college in a state where abortion is banned and I get raped and then I don’t have the option to have an abortion?” Thaler said in the article.
Thaler’s fear exemplifies sexual assault statistics from American universities.
On a national scale, 9.7% of graduate and professional female students and 26.4% of undergraduate female students have experienced rape or sexual assualt through incapacitation or physical force.
In 2020, Louisiana reported a total of 12 cases of sexual assault across its top three public univerisities, out of a total of 68,000 students. Statistics failed to paint the full picture in Louisiana as a USA Today investigation uncovered multiple rape and abuse allegations that were being ignored by adminstrators at Louisana State University.
Herbert Lazerow, a law professor at the University of San Diego, when asked about the consequences for students following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, said:
“Women students no longer have a constitutional right to seek an abortion. This is likely to result in sharp political battles in some states, but it will be well short of a constitutional crisis.”
Lazerow concluded the interview with the prediction that college applicants will reflect on more things than they have before when declaring their admissions. As for current college students, he predicted that several will transfer to universities in less prohibitive states.
The same day after the overturning, Californian Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1666, which protects both out-of-state patients in need of abortion care and the doctor who performs the abortion. The law further protects providers or doctors who travel to the state to perform the abortion.
Miranda McGowan, a law professor at USD, expressed her concern about not only the rights of birth-abled citizens, but the destabilization of American democracy.
“Precedents should not be overturned except in very narrow circumstances,” McGowan said. “The combination of the Court’s rulings in the last several years regarding voting rights strikes me as far more grave to the health of our representative democracy.”
The overturning of Roe v. Wade has sparked questioning of past ruled precedents. As reported by CNBC, Justice Clarence Thomas announced hours after the overturning that the landmark rulings which solidified gay and contraception rights should be reconsidered.
“The ball is now in state courts and state legislatures,” McGowan said. The 60-vote filibuster, which has been in place for 47 years, restricts the legalization of the right to abortion nationwide.
The United States Senate filibuster is used to prolong debate — usually to delay or prevent the vote on a bill or piece of legislation attempting to be passed. In order to end a filibuster, three-fifths of the US Senate must vote to end the prolonged debate, which would then be classified as a cloture.
Due to the 60-vote rule to end the filibuster, Democrats failed to codify the right to abortion in May of 2022. The bill was thrown out in a 51-49 vote, since the vote failed to acquire a majority vote or bypass the 60-vote supermajority filibuster.
McGowan expressed her opinion on Senate Democrats and their actions within their body of power:
“I see no prospect for federal legislation to guarantee the right to abortion nationwide. The 60-vote filibuster rule would prevent that, and the Democrats are not interested in changing that rule. I am also not sure that all Senate Democrats would be on board for federal legislation guaranteeing the right to abortion anyway.”
Additionally, McGowan strongly believes that birth-abled citizens will be able to cross state lines to receive an abortion without criminal persecution. She understands the possibility of states threatening their citizens with prosecution, but no state holds that power as it’s unconstitutional to “infringe on the federal right to travel,” as dictated by the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the 14th Amendment.
McGowan’s biggest concern is that birth-abled students may not have the proper access to reproductive health care, which will create problems for the impregnated and the actual child. These problems appear to be happening already.
In Indiana, Dr. Caitlin Bernard performed an abortion on a 10-year-old rape victim who traveled from her prohibitve state of Ohio to recieve an abortion legally. The Indiana attorney general, Todd Rokita, who is leading the investigation on Dr. Bernard, shared this statement with Fox News:
“We’re gathering the evidence as we speak, and we’re going to fight this to the end, including looking at her licensure if she failed to report.”
President Biden has mentioned the incident as an example of the consequences that come from abortion bans in a press conference while signing an executive order on abortion.
Instances like this have states like California bracing for a surge of out-of-state citizens traveling to the state for abortion care needs.
Guardian reporter Dani Anguiano reports that researchers are predicting a 3,000% increase in the number of citizens traveling to California for abortion care. According to a Guttmacher Institute report, California’s patient load could rise from 46,000 to 1.4 million.
In a statement released by UCSD’s Office of the Chancellor, the support of a birth-abled student’s right of independent choice was acknowledged:
“UC San Diego Health will continue to provide patients and students access to comprehensive reproductive health services and will continue to partner with community organizations and Planned Parenthood for more complex cases.”
Please visit the student health website for more information on the services which UCSD provides in regards to reproductive care. If you are experiencing distress or anxiety from the overturning, please visit the UCSD Counseling and Psychological Service website (CAPS) or contact friends and family as a leverage of support.