Dickinson’s Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies (WGSS) faculty condemns the US Supreme Court’s June 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision ending our constitutional right to abortion. This decision endows states and their predominantly white, male lawmakers, rather than women and people who can become pregnant, with primary authority to govern, police and control one of the most fundamental, intimate decisions about our bodies and our lives – if, when and how often we have children.
Wrestling control of this basic human right from women has been critical to sexist and racist abuses of power across the boundaries of time and geography: from imperialism, colonial settlerism, war and nativism to chattel slavery, coerced sterilizations and the new eugenics of gutted social service systems. Restricting access to abortion therefore feeds the interlocking systems of white dominance, classism, sexism, heterosexism and ableism that feminists struggles have long opposed. It will disproportionately impact younger and more economically precarious marginalized groups, immigrants and communities of color who already navigated substantial reproductive health and abortion care obstacles when Roe was still in effect. We are also concerned for our students as college-age women have a higher need for abortion care – women aged 20-24 and 15-19 have the highest abortion rate and ratio, respectively. Dickinson students come from almost every US state, including those with trigger laws in place.
And this decision affects us all – regardless of our privileges, ability to travel and gender. In states severely restricting or outlawing access to abortion it will chill doctors' ability to provide the most appropriate, time-sensitive medical care for women navigating pregnancy loss or health-threatening complications, as we’ve already seen in some religiously based hospital systems denying women the most appropriate miscarriage treatment. It will intensify the legal scrutiny and criminalization some women endure during miscarriage and stillbirths. And its reach will criminalize not just providers, but embolden a growing, ongoing practice of prosecuting pregnant people who self-manage their abortions. These surveilled individuals are disproportionately poorer, of color and punished with substantial criminal penalties – including a 20 year sentence for an Indiana woman in 2015. As Justice Thomas’s concurrence foretells, Dobbs’ reasoning opens the floodgates to roll back what he dubs “demonstrably erroneous” legal protections for contraception, QLGBT sexual intimacies, gay marriage and, with them, family rights.
In contrast, as intersectional feminist scholars we reiterate that abortion and the capacity to control our reproductive destiny, sexual lives and family structure are among the most basic human rights that we should be able to exercise without shame, stigma or overreaching state control.
But there is hope, especially as we build on the decades-long work of reproductive justice feminist, antiracist and queer activism. Vote, call your legislators, demand support for human rights from our community leaders, and reach out to your local reproductive healthcare providers and reproductive justice networks to ask what support they need. For access, resources and organizations see: Abortion Delivered mobile clinics; Black Feminist Futures; the abortion medication provider Hey Jane; Harriet’s Wildest Dreams; the National Network of Abortion Funds; National Abortion Federation; New Voices for Reproductive Justice; the Sistersong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective; NARAL; Planned Parenthood; If/When/How’s Repro Legal Helpline; and the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s resources on data privacy and abortion access.
WGSS and American Studies
John & Ann Curley Chair in the Liberal Arts
James Hope Caldwell Memorial Chair
WGSS and French and Francophone Studies
WGSS and Psychology