I am crushed, angry, scared, and hopeless, all at once.
Last Friday morning, I opened my phone to a news notification that the United States Supreme Court had overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In one ruling, the court allowed states to individually determine abortion rights and stripped away the rights of millions of women. A range of emotions flooded my mind in an instant.
I am crushed. I wasn’t surprised at the ruling — the leaked Supreme Court draft in May had signaled what we had long seen coming: the conservative movement’s desire to ban abortion. Yet, I am crushed for the millions of women who will be forced to have babies they cannot care for. For the victims of sexual harassment who will have to bear their rapist’s child. For the women of marginalized socioeconomic status, race, and sexuality who will be at an even greater risk.
I am angry. How could we have let this happen? How did six non-elected justices change the trajectory of individual freedoms in this nation with a single ruling?
I am scared. What would this mean for young women? Our generation will have lesser access to abortion than our mothers. How many women will die trying to pursue illegal abortions? Abortions don’t stop when they are banned. They just become more unsafe.
And above all, I feel hopeless. How do you save the women who are now inevitably at risk? How do you stop the domino effect of reversals of rights? What do you do when justices pursue a decision that the majority of the American population is firmly against?
How do we fight back?
We can’t just sit idly by as the court pursues attacks on the rights of women and members of the LGBTQ community and as red states issue abortion bans and heartbeat laws, preventing access to safe and legal abortions.
We must act.
Political activism, now more than ever, is of the utmost importance. Having grown up right outside Washington, D.C., I've seen first-hand the power of political awareness, education, and protest in driving political change. In 2017 and 2018, I attended protests against gun violence in schools, marching to the Capitol to ensure congresspeople heard high school voices. The collective march on some of D.C.’s busiest streets disrupted the city, making both citizens and politicians aware of the gravity of school shootings and public opinion.
Now, we again find ourselves in a position of protest. We’re at a landmark period in history and we must follow the precedent of past grassroots activists in publicly advocating for change. In the 1960s and '70s, the Women’s Liberation Movement advocated for equality and access to legal abortion. By 1973, the women’s efforts had been successful and the case of Roe v. Wade legalized abortion. We thought their work was done, but it is now time for us to harness their power.
Yes, we may be young and feeling hopeless. But hope is not lost. There are ways to mobilize and move forward. Penn teaches us to find a way or make one. So here are some ways that you can take action:
Register to vote: vote.gov
Now more than ever, it is important to exercise our civic voting responsibility. If you are a Penn student living in a firmly blue state, consider switching your registration to Pennsylvania. Given that Pennsylvania is a swing state, it is imperative to elect officials who will advocate for and maintain access to safe and legal abortion. While the current Pennsylvania Governor, outgoing Democrat Tom Wolf, endorses abortion rights, his seat is up for grabs this fall — and, so too, are women’s rights.
Vote up and down the ballot in the upcoming midterm elections.
So much is at stake in this upcoming election. While President Joe Biden said that it is the responsibility of Congress to restore federal abortion rights protections, abortion rights are now determined at the state level. Voting up and down the ballot — for your senators, congresspeople, governors, and state and local officials — is crucial. If you are registered to vote in Pennsylvania, be cognizant that a win for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro this upcoming November will be critical to maintaining abortion access in Pennsylvania. While Shapiro has vowed to maintain access to abortion, his opponent, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, has run on an anti-abortion, religious campaign.
Attend a rally or protest.
Make your voice heard and show the Supreme Court, Congress, and elected officials throughout the nation that you support women in their fight for reproductive rights. Using sources like the We Won't Go Back interactive map, find an event near you to protest the reversal of Roe v. Wade and the government’s denial of female bodily autonomy. Alternatively, look to Facebook to join a community of activists advocating against the Supreme Court decision.
Donate to Planned Parenthood: plannedparenthood.org
Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading provider of sexual and reproductive health care, helps women access safe abortions around the country. With over 600 centers and a presence in all 50 states, Planned Parenthood offers reproductive services and education to all. By donating to Planned Parenthood, you can help the organization continue to fight for abortion rights nationwide — especially for women in red states.
Donate to an abortion fund.
By visiting abortionfunds.org, you can help to fund the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF), a nonprofit that aims to remove financial and logistical barriers to safe and legal abortion for all women. With over 80 organizations in its network, NNAF works to connect women to reproductive funds around the country.
Apply pressure on government officials
At the state and local levels, call your local officials to ensure they protect women’s access to abortion. At the federal level, join in calls to expand the Supreme Court. Contact your state senators and House members and demand they bring the Judiciary Act of 2021 — which would expand the court from nine to 13 justices to match the number of U.S. circuit courts — to the Congress floor. With a majority of Supreme Court justices nominated by presidents who lost the popular vote, expanding the court to include more justices — justices that would be named by a Democratic president — would help women earn their abortion rights back.
Yes, we can be crushed, angry, scared, and hopeless. But let us also be motivated. We are the next generation and it is up to us to drive change in the direction we want to see.
ISABEL ENGEL is a rising College sophomore studying Communications and Health and Societies from Potomac, MD. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.