A possible challenge to Roe v. Wade, a Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States in 1973, has young people considering how it might impact their lives.
Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative judge from Indiana who was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court Monday evening, has previously disagreed with the decision, as well as the Affordable Care Act, which provides many women with free or low-cost contraception.
Among 18- to 29-year-old Americans, 70% support abortion rights, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center study. Among all ages, 60% of Americans support legalized abortions.
“I am scared, because a threat to Roe v. Wade means a threat to women's rights over their own body,” Zoe Tishaev, a freshman at Duke University in North Carolina, told VOA. “It means a threat to the rights of women to make choices. For me, it is a direct threat to my autonomy to make choices.”
By comparison, 55% of Americans 65 and older support legal abortion.
Kristi Hamrick, spokesperson for Students for Life of America, said in an email to VOA that she believes Roe v. Wade needs to be “reviewed, reversed and returned to the states.”
“A flawed understanding of someone else’s humanity may have allowed a bad law to come into existence,” said Hamrick. “But later generations past put a stop to the injustice when they considered the impact of bad laws on real people. That will happen for the preborn, dehumanized by Roe.”
Future of Roe
Barrett publicly opposed abortion in 2006 in an anti-abortion letter and ad in the South Bend Tribune, calling for “an end to the barbaric legacy of Roe v. Wade.” South Bend is in Barrett’s home state, Indiana.
In 2016, the most recent tally, 623,471 abortions were performed in the U.S. and reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Abortion rates in the U.S. fell to their lowest point that year since abortion was legalized in 1973, according to the CDC.
As contraceptive use among women increased from 2000 and 2019, abortion rates declined.
“Personally, I think the ruling of Roe v. Wade was misguided in the first place, since it ignored the rights protected for all persons under the 14th Amendment,” said Sam Sparks, a student at Wheaton College, who said he was “very happy” with Barrett’s appointment.
“No one should be forced to carry the burden of a child they are unable to care for,” Tishaev, from Duke University, said. “Roe v. Wade was liberating for thousands and thousands of women across the United States. To take that away is not just regression, it is oppression, and a systemic stripping of rights.”
“As a Black woman, I view the potential challenge of Roe v. Wade as an attack on reproductive rights, and I feel that the government's encroachment of our rights to bodily autonomy is disgusting,” said Adetoyosi Atewologun, a junior at Boston College.
Atewologun told VOA that overturning the law could have a “devastating psychological effect” on some young women and how they view themselves if abortion were not accessible.
Barrett was appointed to fill the seat of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September.
Ginsburg spent a career focusing on women’s rights and once said she found the Roe decision flawed. She said it should have been based on gender equality instead of privacy.
“The court wrote an opinion that made every abortion restriction in the country illegal in one fell swoop, and that was not the way that the court ordinarily operates,” Ginsburg said in an interview with Bloomberg in 2019. She believed the decision, as written, left the ruling open to attack by abortion opponents.
On Friday, the full Supreme Court of nine justices will decide whether to hear a Mississippi case that bans abortions after 15 weeks. It is seen as a case that could directly challenge the Roe v. Wade decision.