On Saturday, representatives from reproductive health and justice organizations across Cornell’s campus and beyond gathered on the Arts Quad for the kickoff of Our Bodies, Their Laws — an event series aiming to foster engagement and education on reproductive rights.
The organizations tabling at the event included the Cornell chapter of Planned Parenthood Generation Action, the department of Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies, End Abortion Stigma, Advocacy Center, Gender Justice Advocacy Coalition, Cornell Health and the Women’s Resource Center. The event also featured a tent where attendees could vent frustrations regarding the current state of reproductive rights. The tables distributed snacks, informational pamphlets and free condoms to attendees.
Following the decision of Dobbs v. Jackson in June 2022, which overturned the federal right to abortion established by Roe v. Wade, several faculty and staff members began to plan the event series, with a focus on engaging the Cornell community in conversation regarding reproductive rights.
“We just want people to be able to have a more complete, contextualized conversation than is often possible given the way that abortion is talked about,” said Prof. Jess Marie Newman, feminist, gender and sexuality studies, one of the event’s primary organizers.
Rachel Jacob ’23, co-president of PPGA, echoed Newman’s desire to take action following the summer’s events.
“It’s sad that it took something so bad happening for this many people to care,” Jacob said. “But it’s nice to see a lot of people attend and be motivated and willing to raise awareness and help.”
At the FGSS table, Fabiola Faroh ’25, an FGSS minor and student intern for the department, answered students’ questions about the major, minor and class offerings. She said the event was important to inform students of the academic opportunities on gender equality that are available on campus and educate Cornellians on the current state of reproductive justice in the United States.
The consensus among event organizers and participants was the goal to educate Cornellians on the reproductive health resources available on and off campus. Shura Gat, interim associate dean of students and director of the Women’s Resource Center, emphasized that the Center provides resources for physical and emotional wellbeing.
“The whole idea of being a resource center is that we have physical resources — things like free period products, free sustainable period products, free pregnancy tests, free safer sex products, as well as intangible resources such as relevant programming and opportunities for community and connection around gender justice,” Gat said.
Cornell Health also offers reproductive health resources, including reversible forms of contraception, sexual health nurses and emergency contraception, said Rachel Clark, clinical director of women’s and sexual health at Cornell Health. Cornell Health also collaborates with Planned Parenthood to provide students with abortion services.
Damien Osborne ’22, who serves as the treasurer of PPGA, emphasized the importance of on-campus resources for students from states with limited reproductive health services. Gat echoed this sentiment.
“We know that, depending on what state students live in, that [current events] might impact them very personally — either their families or their own bodies,” Gat said.
Hope Cross-Jaya ’25, an attendee at the event, said she enjoyed speaking with representatives from different organizations and learning about available resources.
“There are a lot of opportunities for people to get involved, and to understand their bodies and understand their rights,” Cross-Jaya said. “We need these resources to build each other up, and I think that having that sense of community is so important right now, at this time, but also at this University as well.”