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Statement from the College of Charleston’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program Faculty Executive Committee and the Women’s Health Research Team on the June 24, 2022 SCOTUS Decision

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Statement from the College of Charleston’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program Faculty Executive Committee and the Women’s Health Research Team on the June 24, 2022 SCOTUS Decision

The Faculty Executive Committee of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program and the Women’s Health Research Team at the College of Charleston strongly oppose and are outraged by the SCOTUS decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on Jun 24, 2022, which effectively overturns Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1993). This disastrous decision removes constitutionally protected freedoms, a first in our country’s history.

Our opposition is grounded in decades of empirical data and research that we have conducted in Social Science, History, Public Health, and other disciplines, as well as our lived experiences.

The premise is simple: People with uteruses do not have the basic freedom and fundamental human right to their bodily autonomy. What’s more, in what will soon be in a majority of states, if they (or we) attempt to exercise these entitlements, we will be criminalized.

Criminalization has never eradicated abortion. Abortion is and has been practiced in every known human society. It is an ordinary part of the reproductive lives of people who can get pregnant. The World Health Organization includes comprehensive abortion care on its list of essential healthcare services. It is a common medical procedure that will not go away even under the most draconian measures.

What confronts us now is what abortions under criminality will be like, what will happen to the people who need them, and who will be most affected by laws like this.

In the few hours after SCOTUS released their decision 13 states enacted their “trigger laws” and at least 13 more are maneuvering to make abortions illegal, including South Carolina. The cascade of restrictions is ballooning, including criminal prosecution of those who seek abortions, those who provide them, and even those who offer referrals. These laws effectively codify state-sanctioned forced pregnancies.

Poorer people, immigrants, and people of color already have decreased access to abortion. Many can’t take time off from work or don’t have access to childcare to be able to travel across state lines for abortions. Some will have to carry on with essentially forced pregnancies. This will perpetuate poverty for families across generations.

What anti-abortion advocates do not seem to realize is that abortion restrictions also increase the chances that all pregnancy loss – even unintended – will be surveilled, suspected, and potentially prosecuted. This is not a hypothetical situation as it is already happening, and has been for some time, in states such as Tennessee. There is no way to establish medically if someone had a miscarriage or induced an abortion with pills. People who miscarry will be interrogated and potentially prosecuted. People with very much wanted pregnancies who face health complications will be denied medically necessary procedures. People will die from pregnancies they are forced to carry.

We at the College and in higher education broadly will lose students facing unwanted pregnancies because of this decision. Women will lose educational and career opportunities; this too will perpetuate the cycle of poverty. Women will be less likely to leave abusive partners if they have to carry unwanted pregnancies to term. It is no coincidence that the economic, leadership, political and educational status of women in the U.S. has increased commensurate with the ability for them (us) to control our reproductive lives.

Forcing people to stay pregnant will result in harm and deaths. In South Carolina, maternal mortality rates are 26.2 deaths per 100,000 live births. For women of color, that rate is 42.3 per 100,000 live births compared to 18.0 per 100,000 live births for white women (SCDHEC). That means pregnancy is risky, and also not all infants survive. South Carolina’s infant mortality rates are far higher than the national average: 6.5 per 1,000 live births in South Carolina compared to 5.58 deaths per 1,000 nationwide.

The most vulnerable will become more vulnerable. But that’s the point, right?

We grieve with our community for what has been lost and for the tragedies that will come in the wake of this decision. We know that the inability to control one’s own reproductive decisions will impact many of our students and colleagues. This is why we unequivocally united in our opposition to this decision, and to the cascade of laws that will follow. We also are united in our continuing struggle for the fundamental human right to bodily autonomy.

We invite you to join us in our resistance to this unchecked and ideologically myopic power that seeks to eradicate our freedoms. We will not go back!

What do we do?

We can write our legislators to demand state-level protections for abortion, including comprehensive health care services.

  • Urge SC legislators to support the Reproductive Health Rights Act (S. 1348), which would ensure access to contraception, in vitro fertilization, sex education, and all forms of reproductive health care.
  • Follow SC WREN (Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network) for current information about how to get/stay involved in legislative advocacy

We can circulate information about organizations that support individuals needing abortions (and donate, if you can):

We can urge companies we support to move to abortion-friendly states or cover abortion-related expenses for employees who live in states where it is/will be restricted.

We can boycott companies and organizations that fund anti-choice/abortion politicians and movements.

We can get educated about the deeper context of these attacks on reproductive freedom as jeopardizing the very core of freedom for people with uteruses:

We can urge our leaders at the College of Charleston to follow the many other institutions that have declared their commitment to ensuring that all students will have access to reproductive healthcare. We can insist that current practices of CofC’s Student Health Services to offer no cost options for birth control become permanently resourced.

  • We can go further to financially support unintentionally pregnant students, as The Hope Center for College, Community and Justice states: “Pregnant and parenting students deserve nothing less than emergency financial aid to obtain abortion care when and wherever they may need it.”

We can share information about abortion access, legal rights, and self-managed abortions.






Jane: An Abortion Service Film Screening & Panel Discussion

Jane: An Abortion Service

Join WGS in partnership with WREN, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, Carolina Abortion Fund, and Soda City Bail on Sunday, Feb. 27th for a film screening of “Jane: An Abortion Service.” This movie is a fascinating political look at a little-known chapter in gender justice movement history. The film tells the story of “Jane,” the Chicago-based women’s health group who performed nearly 12,000 safe illegal abortions between 1969 and 1973 with no formal medical training.

Following the film is a panel discussion featuring Meredith Matthews, Field Organizer with Planned Parenthood South Atlantic; Justine Orlovsky-Schnitzler, Director of Engagement with Carolina Abortion Fund; Cora Webb, Program Director with We Are Family; and more! The panel discussion will focus on abortion justice and reproductive rights.

Seating will be outdoors at the Stern Center Garden and limited in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Masks will be required.

Follow the QR code to register or the following link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/screening-of-jane-an-abortion-service-with-panel-discussion-tickets-253456002727?aff=ebdsoporgprofile

Learn more about the panelists below. Image descriptions are provided thanks to Effy Francis.

Meredith Matthews

Image Description: A mint colored image graphic with hot pink accents, containing a close up photo of Meredith Matthews, a Black woman with dark brown hair in locs wearing round tortoiseshell glasses and winged eyeliner. She is smiling with an open mouth while looking at the camera, resting one hand against her temple. Her name is in hot pink, with the following text in black font: “Meredith Matthews (she/her) Originally from Walterboro, SC, Meredith has lived in Charleston for the last 7 years. Meredith credits her rural upbringing and the positive influence of strong Black women for her passion in public policy and advocacy. While studying Political Science in college, she became mother to son, Ulysses who continues to inspire her commitment to serving the community. She is currently a Field Organizer with Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and chair of the Lowcountry Sexual Assault Response Team (SART). Meredith is motivated by the need to protect historically marginalized communities and centering all intersections of Black identity in the conversation of social justice.”

Cora Webb

Image Description: A mint colored image graphic with hot pink accents, containing a waist-up photo of Cora Webb, a Black person wearing a white shirt, bright green hair scarf, and small, round hoop earrings. She is smiling widely at the camera, with arms folded across her chest. Cora’s name is in hot pink, with the following text in black font: “Cora Webb (they/them/all pronouns): As a graduate of the College of Charleston, double majoring in Women’s and Gender Studies and Public Health, Cora Webb has developed a deep commitment to community advocacy and actively seeks to build communal care networks. Throughout her college career, she assisted with designing and implementing informative events that aimed to properly represent different cultures and advance the campus community’s understanding of gender, sexuality, and identity. As Program Director of We Are Family, Cora continues to prioritize community engagement while addressing community needs.”

Justine Orlovsky-Schnitzler

Image Description: A mint colored image graphic with hot pink accents, containing a headshot photo of Justine Orlovsky-Schnitzler, a white woman with long, dark brown hair, wearing a black top. She is smiling at the camera with an open mouth. Justine’s name is in hot pink, with the following text in black font: “(she/her) is the Director of Engagement for the Carolina Abortion Fund. Born and raised in Wilmington, North Carolina, she served as a CAF campus intern while attending UNC-Chapel Hill as an undergraduate. After earning her BAs in American History and Women’s and Gender Studies (her thesis focused on post-Roe challenges to abortion via the Supreme Court) in 2017, she volunteered as a helpline casework for CAF before joining the Board of Directors in 2018. Prior to joining staff in 2021, she earned her MA in Jewish Folklore with a focus on the Yiddish language and Holocaust resistance music from UNC-Chapel Hill.”

Tessa Torgovitsky

Image Description: A mint colored image graphic with hot pink accents, containing a headshot photo of Tessa Torgovitsky, a white person with shoulder length, light blonde hair, wearing large, dark brown glasses and a forest green shirt. They are smiling with a closed mouth at the camera. Her name is in hot pink, and the following text is in black font: “(they, them & she, her) is a queer, Jewish, anti-racist feminist born in the nation’s capital. They moved from DC to South Carolina to attend the College of Charleston, where they received a B.A. in Women’s & Gender Studies. Tessa now works at the Carolina Youth Action Project! CYAP is an abolitionist organization that centers political education and community organizing to build power among girls, trans youth, and gender nonconforming youth. Tessa is one of their Campaign Organizers, working specifically around the Sex Education Beyond Abstinence Campaign.”


Image Description: A mint colored image graphic with hot pink accents, containing a headshot photo of Anjali, a brown person with long, black hair and a nose stud, wearing a sapphire blue collared shirt, and a large, beaded, chain link style necklace. They are looking at the camera with a neutral facial expression, head tilted to the side. Behind them is a patterned wall of colorful lottery tickets. Anjali’s name is in hot pink, with the following text in black font: “(they/them) is the singer, electronic producer, and new media artist behind Diaspoura. Diaspoura’s sound and speech has brought forth a fresh perspective to the media of a poor, brown, and gay South. Their newest music, web art, and events discuss artist exploitation and solidarity.”

Astasia Williams-Bertles

Image Description: A mint colored image graphic with hot pink accents, containing a bust shot photo of Astasia Williams-Bertles, a white woman with long, light blonde hair, wearing a black top. She is smiling at the camera with mouth closed. Her name is in hot pink, with the following text in black font: “(she/her) is an Assistant Public Defender in Berkeley County, South Carolina. Astasia practices criminal law, representing juveniles in the Family Court and adults in General Sessions. Astasia is a member of the Reproductive Justice Lawyers Network, the Charleston County Bar Association, the South Carolina Bar Association, and South Carolina’s Young Lawyers Division. Astasia earned her Juris Doctorate from the Charleston School of Law in 2021. During her time in law school, she was the co-founder and co-president of CSOL’s Student Chapter of If/When/How: Lawyering For Reproductive Justice. She was the 2020 Elaine Fowler recipient, highlighting outstanding academic achievement, leadership and philanthropic potential, a strong commitment to the legal profession, and the promotion of diversity and inclusion. Astasia graduated from the New York Institute of Technology in 2018, earning her bachelor’s degree in political science summa cum laude, where she played collegiate soccer. In her spare time, Astasia enjoys painting and staying active with her pitbull, Nova.”



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