By Julia Demskie, Assistant Editor-in-Chief, Assisted by Nora Preston, Writer
The past month has been one of widespread fear, outrage, and mobilization following the May 2 leak of a Supreme Court draft decision to overturn the Roe v. Wade precedent. The leak, the first of its kind in the history of the United States Supreme Court, has dominated conversation at New Paltz High School.
“[Roe v. Wade] protects the right of people with uteruses to… have safe and healthy abortions, if neccessary or wanted,” explains Sophie Gallo, a Junior at New Paltz High School.
The 1973 court case was a landmark in the second wave feminist movement, and has come to represent freedom and basic rights for women throughout the nation.
The pivotal case ruled that women have the right to safe and legal abortions without excessive government restriction, and the right to privacy, under the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution. This precedent has worked to prevent total abortion bans in the United States for nearly 50 years, and was strengthened by Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992. Now, both rulings are being challenged and threatened by the preliminary decision of 5 current Supreme Court justices.
“As a woman, and as a mother to a daughter, I want her to have the ability to make choices that will benefit her the most. If that means, someday… her having an abortion, then I want her to have the option to do it safely, in a professional medical environment,” says Ms. Fredericks, a Social Studies teacher at New Paltz High School.
The possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned has magnified a variety of concerns for women throughout the country. Americans have been forced to face the question that has suddenly become a plausible reality: what would a post Roe America look like?
For women in states with more conservative state governments, this development could mean severely restricted access to what is, in many cases, a life saving procedure. There are many reasons for a pregnant woman to seek an abortion. None of those reasons are the business of anyone that woman does not wish to include in her decision, but one common motivation is the possibility of complications during the course of pregnancy or childbirth that may lead to death of the fetus or mother.
Other common reasons include financial instability, pregnancies being a result of sexual assault or incest, or emotional inability to carry and raise a child, all of which are incredibly serious and deeply personal matters.
“It would [lead to] a lot of forced, unwanted pregnancies or really unsafe abrtions,” predicts Fredericks. “Women should have an option to survive that procedure.”
The women who would suffer the most, though, are women who are living in poverty. If a wealthy woman living in Texas, for example, wants to undergo a procedure to end a pregnancy, she would likely have the ability to take time off of school or work, find transportation to a state where abortion is accessible, and make the choice that she believes is best for herself and her own body.
A woman who does not have such financial flexibility would not have those same opportunities. She would either have to carry the fetus to term and raise a child that she does not choose to have, put that child up for adoption after developing it for 9 months, or attempt an unsafe abortion procedure that has the risk of being unsuccessful, or of killing the mother herself.
Many Americans who believe women should have the right to bodily autonomy and personal choice have feelings of anger and frustration at the threat to reproductive rights.
“It makes it more real, when politics become personal,” admits Mr. Gill, a member of the Social Studies department at New Paltz High School, and a father to two daughters. Gill, like many others, fears for the future that his daughters face. If their option to choose what is right for their own bodies is taken away, what other choices are in danger for women?
Images from the Kingston, NY “Bans Off Our Bodies” rally on May 14, 2022. Photos by Maggie Heenan
The governor of New York, Kathy Hochul, has made it publicly clear that New York State will accept abortion patients from other states, should Roe v. Wade be overturned. However, some speculate that, even if women who live in states with active abortion bans could access a legal abortion in another state, the state that they live in could attempt to take legal action against any organization that provides an abortion for one of their residents, making access even more elusive.
The draft decision seemingly flies in the face of public opinion. To those who support Roe v. Wade remaining the precedent for reproductive rights, it is not difficult to find like-minded people.
“It would cause a lot of women, pregnant women, of younger age especially, to seek other options to get an abortion: unsafe ones that aren’t legally practiced. It could lead to a lot of health issues and death. No one wants that,” states Hayley Brown, a 16-year-old student at New Paltz High School.
Like many political issues in recent years, especially with the advent of social media, the constitutionality of the right to safe and legal abortions has become one headed by the advocacy of young people. The issue has been at the forefront of teenagers’ minds since the draft decision was circulated in the media.
“Working… in a high school with a lot of young people, I’ve seen a very similar reaction to [possibly] not having control and choice over their own bodies,” reflects Fredericks.