On June 24, 2022, the US Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), thereby unleashing new laws, regulations and practices that will restrict access to abortions and reproductive health care for millions of people in the United States. The Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Penn State denounces and condemns this regressive ruling that is already inflicting harm and hardship on women, girls, and pregnant people across the country who need abortions.
The Court’s decision will greatly intensify the suffering and hardship being perpetrated against women, girls and pregnant people of color, especially Black people, who belong to communities already struggling to survive the manifestations of structural racism in the US, including police violence, discriminatory courts, and generational poverty. Those who are least likely to have access to safe and affordable health care will be disproportionately affected by the elimination of the constitutional right to abortion, namely, persons of color, undocumented migrants, the incarcerated, members of LGBTQ+ communities, rural youth, and those living in poverty. In Pennsylvania, for example, abortion is legal only in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, minors require parental consent, state-directed counseling is mandatory, and there is a 24-hour waiting period. Furthermore, 85% of Pennsylvania counties have no facilities providing abortion care; alarmingly, 48% of persons who can become pregnant in the state live in those counties.[i] Nevertheless, the enormity of the Supreme Court’s ruling cannot be overstated: this is the first time in the history of the US that a constitutional right has been taken away.
Even before the Supreme Court ruling, many persons in this country were already living in a virtually “post-Roe” world. The Court’s ruling is in keeping with a long tradition of devastating reproductive injustices dating back to the founding of this country and Black women’s enslavement. Recalling this dark history reminds us that abortion cannot be viewed in isolation from other social justice issues that concern the vulnerable and marginalized in our society. Therefore, in addition to reinstating the right to privacy and the right to individual decision-making that were guaranteed under Roe, governments must address the social reality of inequality that makes it impossible for many vulnerable individuals in the US to exercise control over their reproductive destiny.
The Supreme Court’s decision will also have damaging consequences globally. Reproductive health advocates around the world are sounding the alarm that overturning Roe will embolden local anti-abortion and other socially conservative organizations and intensify abortion stigma; already in Bangladesh and Nigeria, to give two examples, anti-abortion advocates have hailed the Supreme Court ruling in calls to ban abortion. Just as in the US, banning abortion in other countries will not result in a reduction in the number of abortions. Instead, the effect will be to force vulnerable women, children, and pregnant persons to use unsafe methods to end their unwanted pregnancies, which inevitably will result in increases in abortion-related morbidity and mortality.
The Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Penn State is deeply committed to educating members of our community about the complexities of this regressive political moment and to provide resources to all who seek them. Despite this historic setback, we are empowered by our knowledge and community to continue our work for reproductive justice as scholars, educators, and activists. Indeed, coming together in this moment is what fighting for reproductive justice is all about.
To read the extended version, please click here: WGSS Statement-extended version
PLAN C: Learn to access at-home abortion pill options online (plancpills.org) [educational site about accessing abortion pills and safely managing abortion]
Planned Parenthood Keystone [Planned Parenthood of PA]
Verso (versobooks.com) [link to FREE book: We Organize to Change Everything: Fighting for Abortion Access and Reproductive Justice, edited by Natalie Adler, Marian Jones, Jessie Kindig, Elizabeth Navarro, and Anne Rumberger (Verso)]
Keep Our Clinics | Abortion Network [support independent community providers who provide abortion care in the US]
Home – National Network of Abortion Funds [helps remove financial and logistical barriers to abortion access]
Reproductive Justice — Sister Song [information on reproductive justice]
M+A HOTLINE [a confidential, private, and secure phone and text hotline for people in need of support for self-managed miscarriage or abortion]
If/When/How Repro Legal Helpline [a free, confidential source for legal advice and information on self-managed abortion]
INeedAnA.com [provides vetted, up-to-date, and personalized information on how to get an abortion; no search or user data saved]
Guttmacher Institute | Good reproductive health policy starts with credible research [research and policy organization committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights globally]
https://digitaldefensefund.org/ddf-guides/abortion-privacy [info on digital security and abortion]
https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2022/06/29/hhs-issues-guidance-to-protect-patient-privacy-in-wake-of-supreme-court-decision-on-roe.html [info on privacy and period trackers]
Gender Equity Center | Penn State Student Affairs (psu.edu) [confidential resource providing education, support, and advocacy as well as information on reproductive health resources]
Dear Friends of WGSS,
Many of us are reeling in the wake of today’s Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade after nearly fifty years. This is an egregious attack on the privacy and bodily autonomy of millions of women and pregnant people. It is an unjust and highly unpopular decision that will disproportionately affect persons living in poverty, young people, and BIPOC individuals, many of whom already have limited access to decent health care. We must not rest until federal protections are put in place to safeguard the rights of all Americans to access safe, affordable, and culturally relevant health care. Please contact your legislators today to remind them that safe abortion care is a human right. And check back regularly for updates on what the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies is doing to confront this historic wrong.
Department Head, WGSS