‘You feel so powerless’: Students react to the Supreme Court’s leaked draft decision to overturn Roe v. Wade
Campus responses included two reproductive rights rallies on the Green.
Updated 11:45 AM, May 17, 2022
Following a leaked draft indicating the Supreme Court’s decision to potentially strike down Roe v. Wade, which made national headlines on May 2, students organized reproductive rights rallies on May 6 and May 11 to demonstrate support for abortion access.
Under the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, the Supreme Court established that access to abortion is a fundamental liberty protected under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, according to government professor Sonu Bedi. However, the leaked draft opinion of the Supreme Court would overturn this precedent, denying that there is fundamental liberty to abortion access in the U.S. Constitution and leaving the decision of abortion access up to the federal and state governments.
“If it turns out that Roe is overturned, then it will leave those that are pro-life and pro-choice to advocate for whatever their particular view is through states,” Bedi said.
Bedi said the leak of this opinion is “unprecedented” because it is the first time the public has ever seen a draft opinion of this magnitude. The leaked document does not include dissenting opinions and, though the final opinion is not likely to change drastically, Bedi said that the dissenting opinion is important in exercising the practice of disagreement in the Supreme Court.
“I think that in the midst of a decision like this, you feel so powerless, and you feel like there’s nothing you can really do,” College Democrats president Gabi Rodriguez ’23 said. “Especially when it’s [a decision made] by the Supreme Court, who are unelected judges sitting on a bench that we have no say in, you can feel really powerless.”
Rodriguez said her personal reaction upon hearing the leaked decision included anger, devastation and fright. However, she said that she and other members of the College Democrats gathered to organize a response and provide emotional support for one another. Rodriguez added that many College Democrats attended the reproductive rights rally on May 6.
The reproductive rights rally took place on the Green and was attended by approximately 100 people, according to Hannah Kadin ’23. Spare Rib magazine community development lead Caty Brown ’23 said that the rally was organized by more than 10 organizations, including Spare Rib, the Dartmouth Student Union and Planned Parenthood Generation Action.
Brown said the rally was intended to spark a campus-wide conversation by bringing together various student organizations. She said that five students spoke at the protest to amplify their own perspectives and experiences and to articulate the implications and “disproportionate effects” of the Supreme Court decision.
“A goal of this protest was not to just display dissent and then be done; we didn’t want it to end there,” Brown said. She said that Planned Parenthood Generation Action, in conjunction with organizations, set up various tables with informational resources about current reproductive access, how to obtain birth control in New Hampshire, how access to resources may change as well as a separate table open for people to convey the changes they want to see from the College – specifically, Dartmouth stepping up to provide reproductive care which the state may not provide.
In addition to the May 6 protest, another rally took place on May 11 on the Green. This gathering was co-sponsored by the Graduate Women in Science and Engineering, the Upper Valley chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, Dartmouth’s chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America and the women, gender and sexuality studies program, according to a post on GWISE’s Instagram.
According to Kadin, who also attended the May 11 rally, around 50 students and community members gathered on the Green before heading to College president Phil Hanlon’s residence. Aileen Eagleton GR’23, one of the rally’s organizers affiliated with GWISE, said that the group went to Hanlon’s house due to his silence on the leaked draft, noting that “nothing has been released from the administration” regarding abortion rights.
Eagleton said that an open letter to “[put] pressure on the administration to do something” is in the works.
Other gatherings included a group from SOCY 49.27, “Transnational Feminist Sociology,” who made signs in support of reproductive rights and cheered to cars passing by the intersection of Main Street and West Wheelock Street during their class period on May 5, according to Maanasi Shyno ’23.
Grayling Peterson ’24, a member of the College Libertarians and a pro-life advocate, said he was surprised that the College has not been “more vocally pro-choice.” Peterson said he was shocked upon hearing about the leak, adding that he believes life starts at conception and should be protected.
Peterson said the leaked decision gives him “a little bit of hope,” for ending abortion access, but he doesn’t think that overturning Roe v. Wade is going to change what people believe— which he said is the bigger issue.
With midterm elections coming up later this year, Rodriguez said that the focus of activism should turn toward electoral change.
“Hopefully, it’s going to be a wake-up call for people that might not have been involved previously with politics, '' Rodriguez said. “[Hopefully they will] be able to see the importance of trying — keyword is trying — to get your voice out there and specifically to elect pro-choice representatives.”
Daniel Modesto ’24 contributed reporting.
Correction appended (May 17, 11:15 a.m.): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Spare Rib set up tables with informational resources. Planned Parenthood Generation Action, with help from other organizations , set up the tables. The article has been updated.