On May 2, Politico published a leaked draft Supreme Court majority opinion that, if reflective of the Court’s final ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health this summer, would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark legal precedent that established abortion access nearly 50 years ago. If the Court overturns Roe, approximately a dozen states would immediately criminalize abortion, with more expected to follow suit soon after. Conversely, in anticipation of the final ruling, states such as California are already pursuing amendments to their constitutions that would enshrine the right to reproductive freedom into state law.
The ramifications of overturning Roe are far-reaching—with implications for other previously settled precedents, from marriage equality to privacy rights—and news of the draft opinion sparked protests across The Claremont Colleges. Below, Scripps students, faculty, and staff weigh in on Roe v. Wade’s importance, and what outlawing abortion access would mean for the nation:
Dorothy Cruickshank Backstrand Chair in Gender and Women’s Studies
Professor of Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
“These attacks on abortion, and other reproductive justice issues, have been building up for some time, and it is again an open war on all pregnant people. As SisterSong and other women of color reproductive justice organizations have underscored for years, this would have a particularly devastating impact on low-income women and people of color. The debate also needs to be framed as a question of access, not only as individual choice. This is simultaneously a racial and working-class justice struggle as it is a gender justice struggle. It is important not to despair and continue to fight against state sanctioned misogyny.”
Alexandra Rivasplata ’22
Senior Library Undergraduate Research Award Winner
“The broader implications of this ruling are potentially devastating. This is just the first step towards writing women and other marginalized communities out of the constitution. After decades of fighting for so many basic civil rights such as education and voting, it is honestly mind-blowing that in 2022, the most basic right to owning your body could be taken away. Even beyond abortion and reproductive rights, the legal implications of this can threaten much more. I feel scared to be a woman in America. If Roe v Wade is overturned it will be a clear sign of our country going backwards, and it is well known that this will affect people of color, marginalized genders, and low-income communities the most.”
Director, Intercollegiate Feminist Center
Lecturer for Philosophy
“The SCOTUS draft overturning Roe is clearly a wake-up call. In fact, the right to choose to have an abortion has been virtually empty for many for a long time, as in many places there are no available services, which falls especially hard on low-income women of color. Conservative states have found all kinds of ways to limit access. And overturning the right to choose to end a pregnancy, making it constitutional to outlaw abortion, should be seen in the larger context of how pregnancy itself has been policed and criminalized. In many states, people who choose to be pregnant risk being criminally prosecuted for causing harm to the fetus if something goes wrong or in being controlled in other ways to protect the fetus, treating them as fetal vessels. The denial of reproductive autonomy amounts to assigning second-class status to people who are pregnant, subordinating their rights to those ascribed to the fetus (or even to fertilized eggs). Lynn Paltrow has noted, ‘There is no gender-neutral way to add fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses to the Constitution without subtracting all pregnant women from the community of constitutional persons.’
“Further, reproductive autonomy includes not just being able to choose to prevent or end a pregnancy, but also to have children when one wants to have them and to have adequate resources to raise them: access to good health care (including prenatal health care), good education, adequate food and shelter, a clean and safe environment in which to raise them, and so on. Reproductive rights are connected with so many other social justice issues.
“I strongly encourage faculty to incorporate reproductive rights and justice issues into their teaching. The Intercollegiate Feminist Center library has many books and films on reproductive rights and justice, and we will be posting resources, including for teaching, on our website, along with information on organizations doing reproductive justice work and how you can get involved.”
Jaela Alvarez ’23
Laspa Center for Leadership Scholar-in-Action
“The Scripps student body is deeply upset by the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. This is several steps back for women’s equality, reproductive rights, and basic bodily autonomy, especially for women of color. The harm that will ensue to marginalized genders due to lack of privacy and withheld information will lead to dangerous abortion methods. The United States needs to do better by women and those who are directly impacted by this decision.”
Director, EmPOWER Center for 7C Violence Prevention and Advocacy
“A pregnant person’s right to choose is fundamental. Preventing women, girls, and others who have the capacity to carry a child from accessing an abortion does not mean they stop needing one. In countries where abortion is restricted or illegal, evidence suggests that the number of procedures does not fall. Instead, individuals resort to unsafe, so-called “backstreet” abortions. Those dangerous procedures are currently a rarity in the developed world. According to the World Health Organization, nearly half of abortions worldwide are unsafe, and 97% of unsafe abortions occur in developing countries. Losing access to abortion would isolate the United States from most of the developed world on reproductive rights.
“Taking away a rape or incest survivor’s right to choose is further taking control and power away from the survivor right at the moment when they need that power and control over their lives and bodies to begin the long process of healing. That is unconscionable. Women, and others who have the capacity to carry a child, have the right to choose. That right benefits not only women and girls, but men and boys, individuals of all gender identities, families, communities, and nations. Access to safe abortion is a matter of human rights.”