‘Post-Roe America’ panelists discuss Indiana abortion law, marginalized groups 

The Notre Dame Gender Studies Program hosted a teach-in and discussion featuring a panel of local experts on Post-Roe America on Wednesday afternoon. The panelists discussed the recent Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court decision and Indiana’s new abortion law and its effects with an emphasis on marginalized groups.

The event was also sponsored by the Initiative on Race and Resilience, in partnership with the Indiana University South Bend (IUSB) Civil Rights Heritage Center. The panelists included Notre Dame professors Tamara Kay and Christina Wolbrecht, IUSB professor April Lidinsky, post-doctorate fellow Kate McCabe, community activist Charlotte Pfeifer and Darryl Heller, the director of the IUSB Civil Rights Heritage Center.

The discussion revolved around the intersection of faith and support for abortion rights.

Kay said people who support abortion are likely the majority, even at a Catholic school like Notre Dame.

“There are a lot of women of faith who support rights to reproductive freedom and justice,” Kay said. “It’s important for those of us who are willing to speak up to speak out. Otherwise, it appears that there aren’t that many of us when we’re probably the majority.”

Lidinsky agreed, extrapolating Kay’s point to the national level.

“The majority of people in the U.S. and in Indiana support access to the full range of reproductive health care that includes abortion,” Lindinsky said.

Kay said her faith and conscience implore her to think about the repercussions of these policies that affect the people she cares for.

Kay said she believes her conscience is as legitimate as what the Church tells her. She added that her “stance on [the abortion] issue comes from a profound sense of faith and the dignity of women.”

Pfeifer also discussed how her faith drives her beliefs in abortion rights.

“I want you to know that you can be a deep person of faith and you can be pro-choice,” she said. 

Several panel members also agreed that anti-abortion policies disproportionately affect minorities and people of color.

Wolbrecht referenced Jim Crow Laws in the first half of the 20th century as an example of laws that constrained Black people’s freedoms. Heller said anti-abortion laws are examples of someone else imposing their will and morality onto others.

“[Patriarchy and white supremacy] have been used to dominate other people, and this has shaped our country and the present,” Heller said. 

Pfeifer said the U.S. was built on the backs of underrepresented people, many of whom didn’t have bodily autonomy.

“To me, choice means everything,” she said. 

McCabe said authorities can punish women for their behaviors while pregnant, which disproportionately affects marginalized groups.

“Culturally, we have internalized this narrative that some people’s reproduction is problematic,” McCabe said.

She said Indiana’s abortion law makes allows women to be be criminalized on either side of their pregnancy.

“You’d be criminalized for seeking an abortion, but you could also be criminalized for just remaining pregnant,” McCabe said. 

She said this is problematic because only focusing on access to abortion ignores conversations about systematic failures that were present when Roe was in effect and continue to affect people post-Roe. 

McCabe said focusing just on abortion access can distract from broader conversations about marginalization during the era of Roe v. Wade. 

“If we are focusing too narrowly on legal abortion and access to legal abortion, we are missing out on important conversations around all of the ways that people have been marginalized already through their reproduction and reproductive behavior,” McCabe said.

Heller said the reversal of Roe v. Wade is an example of history repeating itself.

“It is one of the ways history expands and contracts and repeats itself,” Heller said. “There is a real attempt to try to narrow the range of rights that we all possess.”

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Students react to the reversal of Roe v. Wade

On June 24, 2022, Dobbs v. Jackson overturned the precedent set in Roe v. Wade.

In the original Roe v. Wade decision, the U.S. Supreme Court established that women have the right to privacy with their doctor, and therefore states could not interfere with a woman’s choice to get an abortion.

Dobbs v. Jackson ruled that the right to privacy is not explicit within the Constitution, meaning it will now be up to the states to decide if abortions are allowed.

The decision has already had profound impacts across the country, but on a Catholic campus with a number of progressive students, the controversy is even more pronounced.

Campus groups against abortion have signaled their approval of overturning Roe.

One club that has actively spoken about its positive opinion on the decision is Notre Dame Right To Life. Their formal statement on Dobbs can be read on their website. 

Merlot Fogarty, president of Right To Life, said she feels the Supreme Court has now made the right decision.

“I definitely think that Roe was wrongly decided at the very beginning. If you do read the Dobbs decision, the right to privacy really isn’t mentioned,” Fogarty said. 

She said the reversal was important as an admission of mistakes made by past courts. 

“I think this decision definitely opened people up to the awareness that there can be wrongly-decided cases, and there can be mistakes made by the Supreme Court,” Fogarty said. 

Fogarty was in Indianapolis when a new abortion bill for the state of Indiana was debated. It will soon become Indiana law that women cannot get abortions with few exceptions, such as rape, incest, health of the mother and fatal fetal abnormalities, according to reporting by the Indianapolis Star.

Fogarty said she was glad Indiana called a special session to pass this bill. She only wishes the bill were stricter. 

For instance, Fogarty said she feels that rape is “not the fault of the baby” and that abortion punishes the fetus for its father’s crime.

“We’re able to work on getting rid of these exceptions and valuing life, regardless of the circumstances of the conception,” Fogarty said. 

But there is also a side to the debate unhappy with the decision. Irish 4 Reproductive Health, a leading group in support of reproductive health access, declined The Observer’s request to speak in an interview.

“Given the work that we do as an organization and the contentious nature of the political landscape on these issues right now, we would rather not have our positions beyond that up for interpretation,” the group said in an email.

Katie Werner, communications director of College Democrats and vice president of Jewish Club, spoke for the opposing side. She said she is not representing the clubs she is a member of in this interview. 

[Editor’s note: Werner is a former news writer for The Observer.]

Having lived in the southern United States for the past six years, Werner said the Dobbs decision will lead to a harsh reality for her and her friends back home. 

“I’m very concerned, because I think that the nearest abortion clinic, like even Planned Parenthood for cheaper healthcare, is like six to eight hours away,” she said.

Beyond concerns for her female friends, Werner said the decision in the Dobbs case has religious implications. She is involved in her Jewish faith and said she follows certain expectations that her religious texts place on her that do not follow the Dobbs decision. 

“The reformed Jewish sect is pro-choice,” Werner said.

Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that there is no mention of privacy in the Constitution, Werner worries it will affect LBGTQ+ rights, contraceptive rights and more.

“It’s super dangerous because they’re gonna start taking so many progressive rights,” she said. 

Werner said she and many of her friends share the same view on the situation but are unsure how to move forward because the campus atmosphere are making it hard for people with her views to take a stand. 

“I’m kind of at a loss, and there’s a lot of silence, which is awful. It’s only coming from pro-choicers, obviously, so it’s just so unfair,” Werner said.

The new Indiana abortion bill will take effect on Sept. 15.

Emma Duffy

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