A future without Roe v. Wade jeopardizes female students

Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that gives a woman the right to make decisions about her own body, has been thrown in front of the firing squad in many U.S. states as of late. While this could mean many things for women of all races, classes and sexual orientations in our country, what does this mean for female scholars and, more specifically, the UT student body?

Laws such as Ohio and Georgia’s “Heartbeat Bill” criminalize women and doctors for terminating pregnancies once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, often too early for one to know she is with a child. Many of these bills do not include exceptions for rape. The following states passed or considered the same or similar laws: Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Ohio, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, Utah, South Carolina, West Virginia, Florida and — yes — Texas. 

Whether students are pro-life or pro-choice, it is undeniable that these laws will directly impact the UT student body by limiting women’s abilities to pursue higher education.

 “Pro-life should mean the holistic care of all humans regardless of gender, sex, race, ethnicity, etc.,” Ashley Nelcy Garcia, a Spanish and Portuguese graduate student, said in an email. “In other words, the law should not protect the rights of a fetus more than of a human being who is exposed to direct, symbolic or structural violence.” 

Garcia said that this holistic care must include continuing services that allow a woman the same unhindered access to success as her male counterparts. “If the law requires women to give birth to a child, then the mother must have access to medical, child-care support and security services that allow her to continue her education,” Garcia said. 

Unfortunately, these bills make no such promises. After the life of the fetus or embryo is preserved, no further assistance is offered to the mother or the child. Education, sexual and otherwise, must be at the forefront of this discussion. All students — female, nonbinary, and male — ought to be concerned that this issue is about more than life. 

This topic digs straight to the heart of reverting the education system to an era of male-dominated fields where those who learn are also those who can pay for tuition, for child care, for rent, for studying while supporting a child and for the right to have a voice. In short, this issue is just as classist as it is sexist.

Female scholars at UT should inform themselves about campus resources available to them, such as the Women’s Health Clinic through University Health Services, and can find further on-campus support through the Gender and Sexuality Center. Since Texas Gov. Greg Abbott will be responsible for signing off on any future abortion bans passed into law, concerned students should contact his office and ask their Texas state representative to stand up for the diversity of our student body in state government. 

A future without Roe v. Wade means a return to a past we have worked so hard to change. This means financial freedom for a select few, intense struggle for female students with a child, permanent bodily consequences for victims of sexual assault and a filtering of the educational system that favors the privileged. This is not just a political issue, but one of a woman’s access to her own life, her liberty to choose and her pursuit of happiness.

Burns Passafiume is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.