Kaylee Liu, News Editor; Holly Shaum, Staff Writer
Last Saturday, students held a Bans Off Our Bodies demonstration, protesting the overturning of Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022. The demonstration marked the three-month anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision to overrule the constitutional right to abortion and to eliminate federal standards protecting abortion access. There was a large turnout from students, faculty and staff, and many students brought homemade signs or banners to the demonstration.
The demonstration was emotionally charged, with many attendees feeling frustrated and scared about the future. Many students highlighted the importance of bodily autonomy and how it translates to being pro-choice and emphasized that being pro-life was less about protecting the status of fetuses and more about denying bodily autonomy to others. Students also connected this to anti-transgender legislation and laws allowing the forced sterilization of disabled people, suggesting that the overturning of Roe v. Wade is simply another step in a long history of denying oppressed groups bodily autonomy and is not an isolated feminist issue. The overarching message of the demonstration was that everyone should have access to abortion (including Plan B and Plan C, which is an emergency contraceptive and at-home abortion pill respectively). While speaking to the anonymous organizer, they commented that the “older generations that create our policies on a state and national level do not share the conviction [that bodily autonomy is] one of the most fundamental human rights. It is a running trend that the citizen’s choice is not the highest priority. The rejection of choice unless it affirms the will of the powerful is hypocrisy.”
While discussing local issues, students also raised concerns about the Pregnancy Care Center setting up a table on the Residence Quad during the first-year move-in. According to one student who wished to remain anonymous, it is a “fake clinic in downtown Wooster that convinces women that abortions are traumatic and that they should not have them,” and does not provide any legitimate information about contraceptives or abortion. Students questioned why they were allowed to set up a table and emphasized that they could have spread dangerous misinformation to impressionable first-years. More positively, students also highlighted that Wellness can provide reproductive care to those in need. Anne Ober, Director of Counseling Services at the Longbrake Student Wellness Center, was one of the staff members present at the demonstration. She also emphasized that students have health records separate from their academic records and that the Wellness Center is open 24/7. Emily Hiner, Director of Prevention and Advocacy, made the point that “staff in the Wellness Center are here to talk and navigate decisions with folks who need them,” and that she is a confidential resource available to students.
Interim President Wayne Webster, who was one of the faculty speakers at the demonstration, encouraged everyone to “reach out to [their] legislators” and reminded us that “elections are not always about laws that exist [and are instead] about laws that could exist,” and that voting and political participation directly shape the future that we will have to live in. Faculty members who were present echoed his sentiment, stressing the importance of thinking about this issue from a legal perspective. Professor Joan Friedman, the chair of the history department, stated that this “is a serious matter of religious freedom in this country,” as Judaism holds that pregnant people should have autonomy over choosing to terminate a pregnancy. Professor Evan Riley, a faculty speaker, called the overturning of Roe v. Wade a “deep injustice” and “the worst sort of political cynicism.” He compared abortion laws to vasectomy laws, pointing out that “there is no huge, vocal political movement dedicated to dictating to [men] through the law about their choices concerning [their reproductive system].” Finally, he reminded us that “it is perfectly alright… from a moral point of view to terminate a pregnancy.” He also criticized the pro-life movement for “moral hypocrisy” and poorly thought-out “half-baked” slogans like “abortion is murder.” He also used the analogy of an oak tree, stating that “acorns, even germinated ones, are not oak saplings. Similarly, human zygotes and fetuses are not children.” Finally, President Webster reminded us that regardless of our identity, “this is an issue that hits home for all of us.”
If you require reproductive care or advice, reach out to Wellness for guidance.