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):
- National Network of Abortion Funds
- Carolina Abortion Funds (local)
- Palmetto State Abortion Funds
- Aid Access
- Women on Web
- Plan C
- Planned Parenthood
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:
- Explore: SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective’s website and reading materials
- Read and share: The Fall of ‘Roe’ Was Driven by Our Country’s Original Sin: Anti-Blackness
- Study: Handbook for a Post-Roe America
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.
- Abortion is still legal in South Carolina: Abortion Access Resources (SC WREN)