Supreme Court Reversal of Roe v. Wade

24 June 2022

To the Carleton Community:

This morning, the Supreme Court issued an anticipated ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that established a woman’s constitutional right to abortion. For nearly fifty years, women in the United States have been guaranteed control over their own bodies and reproductive choices. Now that decision is left to individual states, 22 of which have laws already on the books that will ban or severely restrict access to abortions.

In an ominous sign of the potential impact of this unprecedented rollback, the concurring opinion of Justice Clarence Thomas also called on the Court to reconsider rulings in Griswold v. Connecticut, on the right to contraception; Lawrence v. Texas, on the right to same-sex intimacy; and Obergefell v. Hodges, on the right to same-sex marriage. 

The dramatic change instituted today will undoubtedly have far-reaching consequences for women’s health, particularly the health of the nation’s most vulnerable women, as access to abortion will now be dependent on geographic location, or resources for travel. Studies show it will impact gender equality and economic mobility as well, as women who are forced to carry unplanned pregnancies to term may be forced to leave school, or to abandon jobs, with lifelong consequences to their lives, careers, and families. 

Access to abortion in Carleton’s home state of Minnesota will not be immediately affected. Gov. Tim Walz has stated that as long as he is governor, “we will not turn back the clock on reproductive rights.” However, his caveat is a reminder of how fragile those rights have become. Given restrictions in neighboring states, Minnesota is likely to become overburdened as a “safe haven” for those seeking abortions. 

Many Carleton students come from these neighboring states, or other states such as Texas and Missouri, where abortions will be banned in the wake of the Dobbs v. Jackson decision. Carleton will continue to provide reproductive health services and referrals through the Student Health and Counseling Center (SHAC). We will share further information for students who are concerned about their ability to access services.

It is interesting to contrast today’s reversal of Roe v. Wade with the Supreme Court’s decision yesterday defining an individual right—rooted in part in the same constitutional amendment as Roe—to carry a gun in public for self-defense. These two rulings together dramatize the fact that while American culture places a high value on individual rights, those rights are unequally distributed. On the one hand, women are denied the right to bodily autonomy, and stripped of one of the most fundamental choices they will ever make. On the other, gun owners are given the right to take guns almost anywhere, and implicitly trusted with the choice of whether or not to shoot another human being.  

While opinions on these specific issues may differ across the Carleton community, I know that we share concern about the impact of these decisions on the health, welfare, safety and well-being of our students and community members. I am grateful to be part of a community that I know will engage in thoughtful discussion, debate, and activism on the critical issues of our time.

President Alison Byerly

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