On June 24, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its decision in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In a vote of 6-3 along partisan lines, the Court struck down 50 years of legal precedent by eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion, reversing previous decisions in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. States will now be allowed to decide whether to keep abortion legal, ban it or restrict it as they see fit.
Friday’s decision comes under unusual conditions: it follows the May 3 leak of a draft of the Court’s opinion in Dobbs, and is the first time the Court has used a ruling to eliminate a previously-guaranteed constitutional right.
After the Court’s draft leaked, many Cornellians rallied in support of abortion rights and promoted pro-abortion educational efforts. Now, pro-abortion Cornellians’ actions have taken a more somber note: Students held a vigil in Dewitt Park the day the decision was released.
In a statement to The Sun, Planned Parenthood Generation Action at Cornell said it planned to continue fighting for access to abortion, contraception and comprehensive sex education, and urged Cornellians to take political action in ways ranging from donating to abortion funds to protesting in favor of the New York State Equality Amendment, which would codify the right to abortion into the State Constitution.
Conservative, anti-abortion students have responded to the Court’s decision with support, claming it as a victory for the political right.
“Hundreds of thousands of children will now have the opportunity to live life to their fullest potential,” the Cornell Republicans said on Twitter. “This a victory for all those who care deeply about pro-life issues, many of whom call the Republican Party home.” The organization did not respond to requests for further comment.
Cornellians for Life, Cornell’s primary anti-abortion organization, also stated their strong approval of the Court’s decision.
“In rightfully sending this issue back to each state, the Supreme Court has made a huge leap in protecting the right to life, and hopefully will shift the focus towards providing life-affirming resources to women in need,” said Anna Henderson ’23, co-president of the group.
But on a campus where Donald Trump lost by significant margins in 2016 according to the Sun’s pre-election polling, liberal students have reacted to the Court’s decision with anger. Cornell Democrats President Javed Jokhai ’24 called the ruling “horrifying.”
“We find the idea of nine unelected officials unilaterally removing the freedom of bodily autonomy from the people is the definition of undemocratic,” Jokhai said, adding that the end of federally-protected abortion rights would not eliminate abortions but rather make them criminalized and unsafe for marginalized communities.
Taisa Strouse ’24, a student involved in reproductive rights activism at Cornell, said the Court’s decision was surreal and saddening despite the leak of the majority opinion draft.
“I could never have imagined that Roe would be overturned [and] then today, it was. It’s an extremely sad day for people of all genders, ages, and backgrounds,” Strouse said. “We’re lucky to attend college in a state that will not be affected by this decision, but to me, that just means we have to fight a hundred times harder for those in states without the same privilege.”
In response to the Court’s decision, Cornellians received an email from Cornell’s Provost for Medical Affairs and dean of the Weill Cornell Medical School Augustine M.K. Choi criticizing the decision.
“The Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is deeply disappointing, as I believe it potentially undercuts the ability of doctors to provide that high quality of care needed by women,” Choi wrote.
The email also promised that the University would continue to follow state law while providing the best quality care for its medical patients.
“I want to assure you that Cornell clinicians, across all our campuses, will continue to provide quality health care services to women, as is legal in the state of New York, and will continue to serve the health care needs of all our patients, faculty, staff and students,” Choi wrote.
Some have criticized this statement as strangely vague. Jokhai said that his organization is demanding University President Martha Pollack directly adress the Court’s decision and at least say the word abortion when talking about the issue.
“We are not surprised that the Cornell administration, who quietly accepted onto their campus the Alliance Defending Freedom, a registered hate group leading the legal fight against abortion, would fail to even be brave enough to say the word ‘abortion’ in their statement regarding the loss of this right, but [we] are none the less disappointed,” Jokhai said. “There is no possibility for Cornellians to properly grieve the rights that have been lost if their leaders in the administration are too afraid to even utter that very right.”
Planned Parenthood Generation Action at Cornell Co-President Rachel Jacob ’23 said her organization wants the University to recognize the diversity of groups affected by abortion bans and commit to more reproductive care on campus.
“We would like to see explicit support for access to abortion and reproductive healthcare, with recognition that restrictions on abortion can affect all people, not just cisgender women,” Jacob said. “It is also worth noting that Cornell Health does not employ an OB-GYN on campus, which further limits access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare.”
Across organizations, pro-abortion students also hope the University will back up its statement with actions.
“Cornell needs to do more than simply release a statement stating their disappointment,” Strouse said. “I want to hear the concrete action they will take to protect an individual’s right to choose in light of this disheartening news.”
This story has been updated.