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Students walk between Sage Chapel and Olin Library at golden hour, Cornell Central Campus, Mar. 6, 2022

May 8, 2022

Cornell Considers Possible Overturn of Roe v. Wade after Supreme Court Leak

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Since the recent leak of the Supreme Court’s draft decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a Mississippi abortion case, campus organizations of various ideologies have commented on the news that the Court could potentially overturn Roe v. Wade, the court case that legalized abortion in America. 

For some groups on campus, access to abortion is often discussed in meetings, with further advocacy throughout the year. One group, the Planned Parenthood Generation Action at Cornell, has planned its annual abortion rights rally for May 14. 

Cornell Democrats Philanthropy Chair Tiffany Kumar ’24 and Cornell Women’s Health Initiative Director of Policy and Advocacy Shruti Kanna ’22 both described their initial reactions as disappointed but not surprised. Kumar said that the draft’s leak was more surprising than its existence. 

“Whoever [leaked the draft] about this was extremely brave and patriotic,” Kumar said. “This exposes the sentiments of the extremely far right wing of the court, a small group of people that do not represent the majority of Americans –– we knew that it was coming, however the leak was so soon.” 

Kanna said the news reminded her of a conversation she had with a high school teacher in class after the election results of the 2016 presidential election.

“A high school teacher once asked my class what policy changes we expected would happen with the increasingly polarized political climate in the country, and I suggested that Roe v. Wade could be overturned,” Kanna said. “The teacher said, ‘No way, that’s definitely not going to happen.’ Looking back, I wish he was right.”

But Kanna and Lauren Gorsky ’23, Director of Communications and Social Media for the the Cornell Women’s Health Initiative, also said they believe that abortion access should not be a political issue.

Pro-abortion activists have raised questions about the efficacy of the law, which Gorsky labled as “not coming from a place of science” and Kanna said would be damaging to women’s health. 

“If you ban abortions, that doesn’t stop people from getting abortions,” Kanna said. “It just leads to more unsafe abortions, which prevent women from receiving the medical resources, support and information they require and deserve when accessing reproductive healthcare –– It simply forces women into an extremely unhealthy situation.” 

For Kumar and Cornell Democrats, the issue of abortion is also tied to broader questions about democracy and political particpation. 

“What Demcoracy is, what being pro-life truly is, is to stand up for people… who can’t stand up for themselves,” Kumar said. “We have to accept that voting is not enough, it is nothing if not also coupled with organizing.” 

In addition to activism on abortion issues, the Women’s Health Initiative focuses on educating Cornellians on women’s health issues, promoting health resources alongside groups like Cornell Votes and bringing speakers to campus to talk about inequities surrounding abortion access. 

Gorsky said that the leak of the recent draft will lead the Initiative to focus more on educational efforts surrounding abortion access and sexual health. 

“It comes back to sexual education, no two people come to Cornell with the same level of sex education [from high school], so we’ll be increasing our education efforts in that area as well,”  Gorsky said. “I would like to see more people without uteruses care more about this issue.”

On the other side of the political spectrum, Autumn Cramer ’22, founder of anti-abortion group Cornellians for Life, the news from the Supreme Court reaffirmed her belief that abortion should be a state issue and should be eradicated.

“Regardless of your view on abortion, the decision should be made through a democratic process which is why I am happy that it would be returning to the states,” Cramer said.

Cornellians for Life focuses on pro-life advocacy outside of Cornell, advocating in Rochester once a month. Referencing the group’s efforts, Cramer noted an overrule on Roe v. Wade will be very different in the Cornell community compared to the nation as a whole. 

“I don’t think it’s gonna change anything on Cornell’s campus because New York is abortion friendly,” said Cramer.

However, while Cramer is optimistic that this decision will increase awareness and action to limit abortion nationwide, other students worry about the implications for future generations if abortion protections are overturned. 

“As a woman, the idea that the government wants to continue to find ways to control us was not shocking but very scary,” Kumar said.