‘One punch’: Penn community reacts to uncertainty over Pennsylvania abortion rights


Philadelphians gather outside City Hall on June 24, 2022 to protest the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. 1 credit

Several weeks after Roe v. Wade, the community of Penn continues to speak out about the Supreme Court’s decision to end the constitutional right to abortion.

The initial draft opinion for Dobbs v. Jackson was disclosed in early May, marking the first time a fully formed draft opinion had been released before the court ruling was announced. The document stated that “Roe was obviously wrong all along” – evidence for the eventual overturning of Roe v. Wade.

On June 24, the court officially voted 5 to 4 to overturn Roe v. Wade, eliminating the constitutional right to abortion. The decision now grants states the power to regulate abortions and reproductive health care.

Current laws in Pennsylvania state that medical abortions are legal before 24 weeks and can only be performed after 24 weeks if the mother’s life is in danger. Eight in 10 Pennsylvania voters say abortion should be legal, though only 31% say it should be legal under all circumstances, according to an April 2022 poll from Franklin and Marshall College.

Many members of the Penn community had strong reactions to the court’s decision, including Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies program director Melissa Sanchez.

“The decision was like a punch, and in other ways it was exactly what I expected and exactly what has been going on for decades,” Sanchez told the Daily Pennsylvanian. “[This ruling is] not so much a turning point as a culmination of what’s happened since the 1970s. It’s more like a nail in the coffin.

Rising College freshman Agustina Hufschmid, an international student from Argentina, fought alongside women for legal abortions in her home country for more than a decade until it was legalized in December 2020 With her past experience of activism with feminist and health care organizations, Hufschmid saw the court’s decision as a harsh effort to stifle women’s autonomy.

“It’s like America is going back to medieval times,” Hufschmid told the DP. “And there is nothing worse than a country that cannot protect the lives of its own citizens.”

The European Union Parliament voted 324 to 155 in a July 7 resolution condemning the court’s decision to strike down the right to abortion and add the right to abortion to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.

“Instead of being seen as a world power, the United States is now an outlier,” Hufschmid said.

Antoilyn Nguyen, a sophomore at Rising College, one of the leaders of Penn’s new Reproductive Justice Task Force, which aims to increase abortion access and awareness in the Penn community, said to the DP that they weren’t surprised by the decision and felt it was a “long time to come.”

“There are actually no groups on campus currently doing reproductive justice work that includes access to abortion,” Nguyen told DP. “We felt there was a need for this, especially with the cancellation of Roe v. Wade.”

In addition to their work with the Penn Reproductive Justice Working Group, Nguyen raised funds to send menstrual products to local shelters. Nguyen is also involved in research at Penn Medicine that investigates whether racial disparities in maternal mortality rate change with the implementation of a standard induction of labor protocol.

“When I was 11, I didn’t have adequate access to pads and tampons. So later on, I became really passionate about reproductive health struggles,” Nguyen says. “When things like the Roe decision v. Wade are gone, it makes me incredibly upset because I know how many people must be going through the same thing as me.”

Nguyen hopes the Penn administration will take a stronger stance on fostering reproductive justice and safety, by providing women’s health resources to communities surrounding Philadelphia.

Hufschmid shares a similar view and thinks Penn should educate students, especially those from outside the United States, about the events surrounding abortion rights.

“More [international students] come from countries that have different regulations than the United States. So maybe it would be good to have assemblies informing students of the regulations they will face,” Hufschmid said.

Republican Pennsylvania state senators advanced a proposal on July 7 to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to say that it “does not guarantee any rights relating to an abortion or the public funding of abortions,” The Morning Call reported. . The amendment must be approved by majority vote in both houses for two consecutive years and then added to the ballot for voters to decide; this method allows the Pennsylvania legislature to bypass the state governor who cannot veto a constitutional amendment, the Wall Street Journal reported.

As Governor Tom Wolf reaches his term limit, whoever wins the gubernatorial election in November will determine whether abortions remain protected or banned in Pennsylvania.

If Republican candidate Doug Mastriano emerges victorious in the gubernatorial contest, he will institute an “extreme abortion ban” in Pennsylvania that “will make Keystone State a pariah for many of the best and worst young people.” brightest in the country when deciding where to go”. go to college,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Previously, as a state senator, Mastriano sponsored a bill to ban abortion at six weeks, with no exceptions for rape, incest or threats to the life of the mother, according to the Inquire.

Democratic candidate Josh Shapiro has vowed he will uphold the legality of abortions. In a Tweeter following the ruling, Shapiro wrote, “I will not hesitate to use my veto pen to protect your right to choose.”

Depending on the election results, Penn could become the only Ivy League institution in a state to ban abortion, the Inquirer reported.

Numerous Penn organizations issued statements condemning the court’s decision. The Penn’s Center for Public Health Initiatives chastised the decision for its “threat to health care access, basic human rights, and health equity,” citing the World Health Organization’s recognition of the abortion care as essential health care.

“Continuing to strengthen comprehensive abortion care is vital, affirming and essential to the nation’s public health. In light of this decision, Penn’s public health community will continue to educate and promote access to comprehensive and safe reproductive care,” CPHI wrote.

Penn Democrats, a student-run organization, also called for “action for the right to choose” in a June 24 Instagram post.

Three days after the court’s decision, Penn Law School professor Serena Mayeri, alongside law professors Melissa Murray of New York University and Reva Siegel of Yale Law School, shared a Tweeter of a memorandum they had filed in court. The brief argued that laws restricting abortion violated the Equal Protection Clause; this clause, contained in the 14th amendment, obliges states to practice equal protection and obliges them to govern impartially.

Mayeri and her colleagues argued that by giving states the power to regulate access to abortion as they see fit, the court ensured violation of the equal protection clause and therefore went against of the Constitution. This argument was similar to that made by the United States in Dobbs v. Jackson; however, Judge Samuel Alito “dismissed it out of hand”, Murray wrote in a tweet.

Sanchez thinks the overturning of Roe v. Wade could ultimately have wider implications, affecting other health-related rights such as same-sex marriage and contraception.

“There’s going to be a lot of federal laws struck down before this Supreme Court is done,” Sanchez noted.

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