“I was devastated”: Students, community members protest Roe v. Wade overturning
On Friday, the community reacted to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which struck down federal protections for abortion.
On June 24, the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 ruling of Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2022), striking down the constitutional right to an abortion. In response, pro-choice demonstrators gathered on the Green and across New Hampshire to protest the loss of federal protections for abortion, which has already become banned in seven states.
Co-president of Planned Parenthood Generation Action Ady Chaudhari ’24 said she estimated that around 100 people attended the protest on the Green, including students, faculty, community members and state representatives. Fellow co-president Eliza Holmes ’24 said that Planned Parenthood Generation Action helped organize the protest by advertising it around campus.
“It was a little last minute [and] chaotic getting everything together the day of, but we handed out chants for people to say,” Holmes said. “I just really wanted students to be present there, so [we] kind of got the word around for students on campus that this protest was happening.”
According to state representative Mary Hakken-Phillips, D-Hanover, the statewide protests were a joint effort made possible by many organizations, includingNew Hampshire Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
“Because of my legislative work, I often work with the leaders across the state for Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and with some lobbyists that they employ as well,” she said. “We had been in contact a couple weeks ahead of time to say what we were going to do at five o’clock the day [the Supreme Court decision] came out…so the protest was a coordinated effort among multiple players across the state.”
Hakken-Phillips said that she acted as “a liaison between the groups” at the Hanover protest on the Green and moderated the event to ensure that representatives from the various groups could come together cohesively.
“It was my goal to get as many people to express their concerns or thoughts or share their feelings, so that everybody felt we were all in this together,” she said.
In New Hampshire, protesters also held pro-choice rallies in Concord, Dover, Exeter, Keene, Lancaster, Manchester, Plymouth and Portsmouth.
In an interview with The Dartmouth, government professor Linda Fowler, who gave a speech at the protest, said she felt “sucker-punched” in reaction to the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.
“The opinion shows so little respect for women that [the Supreme Court] didn’t even bother to engage in accurate historical analogies or compelling legal reasoning – it was a lousy opinion,” she said. “They took the Roe opinion, which is widely regarded by many people, including me, to have not been wrongly decided, but the basis for the decision was imperfect – and replaced it with [a decision] that is demonstrably worse.”
Fowler said she believes the decision violates her first amendment right to religious freedom, since she does not agree that life starts at conception as some religious faiths do. She also noted that in her opinion, the Constitution implies the human right to individual and “bodily autonomy,” which is why abortion should be a federal protection.
“You can look at the Fourth Amendment, you can look at the 14th Amendment, you can look at the Ninth Amendment, which is the most telling one,” Fowler said. “It basically says that citizens have more rights than the ones enumerated, and that we have not listed all of them: We’ve listed important ones, and just because they are not on this list does not mean that citizens don’t have them.”
Holmes said that she felt “devastated” but “not surprised” when she found out the Supreme Court had overturned Roe v. Wade. Holmes, who also spoke at the protest, said she discussed how low income women, BIPOC and the disabled will be affected disproportionately by this decision, as well as women in states with already limited reproductive healthcare.
“The communities that will be [most] affected by this decision include low income families, Indigenous [people], people of color and disabled people who already face discrimination with the health care system and within abortion care,” she said. “…In New Hampshire as of now, abortion is still safe and legal because we have an abortion law in place that abortion is acceptable up until 24 weeks, so [I] just think about all the states where that is not necessarily the case.”
Chaudhari said that the overturning of Roe v. Wade will provide a starting point for the Court to revise other landmark decisions.
“This ruling sets a lot of precedents for overturning things related to gay marriage, access to birth control, criminalizing interracial marriage – tremendous, fundamental societal things that this [decision] is opening up doors to overrule,” Chaudhari said. “I don’t think people are truly understanding how regressive this is for us, and how embarrassing this is for our country.”
Co-president of Dartmouth Graduate Women in Science and Engineering Aileen Eagleton, who attended the rally, said that this group has formed a coalition with the Committee for Addressing Racism and Equality, Dartmouth Young Democratic Socialists of America and the Student Workers Collective at Dartmouth, as well as other groups. The coalition has circulated a petition to “pressure” College administration to improve reproductive healthcare and childcare access for student workers, she said. It has received over 300 signatures.
The petition outlines several demands directed at the College administration, including releasing a statement in support of abortion, providing access to surgical abortions and transportation costs for students seeking an abortion as well as other demands such as “seriously considering” the abolition of the Greek system to decrease sexual violence on campus.
Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the College has released a statement noting its “commitment to reproductive health care” and autonomy, continuing to offer insurance coverage to students, employees and their families “in support of reproductive health,” including abortion.
Hakken-Phillips said some of the most powerful moments at the protest for her were when younger people spoke about their anger and determination in the wake of this decision.
“I’m a person who had these rights my whole life and now they have been taken away from me, and to hear a younger generation equally, if not more, angry was just reassuring that this is a generational fight,” she said. “It’s not over.”
According to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, abortion remains legal in New Hampshire up to 24 weeks, with exceptions for fatal fetal diagnoses and if the life of the pregnant person becomes jeopardized. For minors under 18, New Hampshire requires that a parent knows about the decision 48 hours prior to the abortion.