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Purchase Students Weigh in on Roe v. Wade Debate

By Sophia Castro-Astor, Lilian Schwendener, Andrew Donovan, Nolan Cleary, Grace Wenner and James Brady

NYC protesters gathered at Foley Square (Photo by Hilary Swift for The New York Times)

A leaked majority draft opinion by the Supreme Court to revoke Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that established a constitutional right to abortion, drew mixed reaction at Purchase.

Gabriella Philipp, a freshman psychology major who said she was going through a pregnancy scare, posted on social media in support of Roe after Politico published Justice Samuel Alito Jr.’s argument overturning the 1973 case. Her post received lots of negative comments.

“I’m freaking out about whether or not I’m pregnant and going to need an abortion,” said Philipp, who is from Seaford, Long Island. “And I’m scrolling through comments that are basically telling me I’m the devil for being pro-choice.”

The leaked draft sparked protests and walk-outs at campuses across the country, a place where 60% of abortions are obtained by women in their 20s. Reaction at Purchase, however, was decidedly more muted. While the Planned Parenthood Club posted a flyer about a New York City protest, no Purchase demonstrations have been held.

“Finals/end-of-the-semester?” mused senior music major Lucy Albright on the Purchase Open Forum, offering a possible explanation for the lack of campus activism. “This is just my own guess. I haven’t really been having conversations about it with others.”

Madiha Aziz, a junior psychology major, noted on the Forum, “I feel like maybe everyone’s waiting for someone else to organize it?”

Not all Purchase students opposed the draft decision. Aiden Froman, secretary of the Purchase Christian Fellowship, said he believed abortion should only be available in very limited circumstances, such as “if the mom’s life is in danger.”

“I feel like other than that, I can’t think of another situation where it would be necessary to have an abortion, and you should let the child live,” he said.

Some on-campus took issue with the pro-life movement’s language. Historian Lisa Keller noted that there was “practically no society up to the 19th century in which abortion was illegal.”

She continued, “There is also no society in which personhood was conferred on a fetus. The word fetus is very critical because unfortunately in the last 30 years or so, the phrase ‘unborn child’ has become popular. And that is a lie. You are not a child until you are born,” Keller insisted. “It is an embryo and at a certain point, it becomes a fetus. The fetus is the entity that lives inside the mother’s womb. When born it becomes a child.”

Senior gender studies major Morgan Robinson, who has had an article published in TLK Magazine on Roe V. Wade, said if the Supreme Court overturns Roe, other decisions like same-sex marriage could also be at risk.

“Cases like Roe were established on the basis that the 14th Amendment assures individuals the right to privacy, as dictated by the ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut, which solidified the right to birth control,” Robinson said in an email. “If Roe is officially overruled, the constitutional issue of an individual's personal autonomy will be called into question, potentially jeopardizing civil rights and civil liberties.”

Sophia Kalish, a freshman communications major from Mattituck, Long Island, recalled having a pregnancy scare when she was 17.

“Growing up, I was raised by my entire town to view abortion as this bad word, and that was all it was to me,” she said. “And then I missed my period for three months straight and all of a sudden, the word abortion signified a saving grace, an option that would let me keep living my life.

“I was very ashamed when I had my pregnancy scare,” Kalish continued. “I was really worried that it was going to spread around my town, which is super small and judgmental. No one should have to worry about that.”

Philipp agreed.

“I used to be one of those people who said that women shouldn’t be using abortions as birth control,” she said. “But women don’t want to use abortions as birth control, they are extremely expensive and really hard to go through emotionally.”

If it does turn out that she’s pregnant, Philipp said, “I know that I’m fine, that I still have the option of getting a safe abortion. But that doesn’t make it any less traumatic. It’s earth-shattering to find out that you almost had a child when you’re not prepared for one.

“I can’t even imagine what my reaction would be if I took a pregnancy test right now and looked down and it was positive,” she continued. “I know that I would get an abortion, but I also know that would be something that changes my life and I don’t need to be hated on and shamed on top of that.”



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