Quote card by Opinion.

On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court decided to overturn Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision. Not only does this decision affect a person’s right to access safe and legal abortion, it will likely soon affect the right to contraception that stops a fertilized egg from implanting into the uterus due to extremist laws that claim (sentient) life begins at conception. And, although it has only been just over a month, the overturning of Roe has already put women’s lives at risk for the sake of a non-sentient fetus’s “life.”

In Wisconsin, a woman had an incomplete miscarriage and needed an emergency procedure to remove any excess fetal tissue to stop her from hemorrhaging and potentially dying. Another woman was diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy that could have killed her, but because a fetal heartbeat was still felt and abortion laws in the woman’s home state are so restrictive, the doctors would not perform an abortion. As a result, she had to travel across state lines to the University of Michigan Hospital to receive proper care. In Ohio, a 10-year-old child could not access abortion after being raped due to the state’s near-total ban, forcing her to travel to Indiana.

All of these cases bring up doubts on what exactly this decision is meant to do. Is putting the lives of women at risk for the sake of a potential new life really “pro-life?” Or is it simply another means to control women? Regardless, the sad reality is that the decision is here to stay, at least for a while. But if there is any hope of enacting changes in the future, we must first understand where this decision came from.

I spoke with Kathryn Kolbert, attorney, journalist, entrepreneurial leader and Founding Director of Athena Center for Leadership Studies. During our call, Kolbert asserted that the most important factor that led to this decision was the appointment of three ultra-conservative justices to the Supreme Court after the 2016 presidential election. These appointments created a Supreme Court with a large conservative majority, thus giving them the power to overturn Roe v. Wade. Another important aspect to remember, according to Kolbert, is that “those who oppose abortion have been organizing and working to defeat Roe and overturn Roe and … Casey (v. Planned Parenthood) for five decades, and they have integrated themselves into (the) Republican Party.”

What she is alluding to is the fact that pro-lifers have successfully filled positions in state legislatures, Congress and the Supreme Court, where they have been enacting a series of restrictions “beginning with eliminating funding for abortion in federal government programs such as Medicaid and other programs, restrictions on minors and restrictions on clinics.”

Kolbert gave a TedTalk in December 2021 that predicted this decision and proposed what we could do to strengthen access to abortion. Since then, many have reached out to her asking what these next steps are. According to Kolbert, one of the most important things we must do is get politically active and elect pro-choice politicians to “positions of power up and down the ballot.”

In regards to Michigan’s abortion access, voting is extremely important. If Gov. Gretchen Whitmer loses the general election, the “Republican Party will move to ban abortion in the state even if she’s successful in the state courts.” This is in reference to the currently blocked 1931 abortion ban, which makes performing an abortion a felony unless the pregnant woman’s life is in danger.

Although Kolbert believes that we all need to vote, she also believes that we must do more than that, including “canvassing and writing postcards and sending texts, having house parties and making sure your friends know that this is important.” She also notes that although students from the University of Michigan come from all over the country, they can register to vote in Michigan.

Kolbert also said that in regards to getting involved, you must use “your anger strategically” and “raise attention to your friends, to your family, to your fellow students.” This means not only educating your friends, family and neighbors, but also working together to protect reproductive rights by signing petitions and sharing abortion resources.

In regards to accessing abortion, Kolbert suggests looking into Plan C and stocking up on emergency contraception. She also suggests donating through the National Network of Abortion Funds and WRRAP (The Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project). Another way to get involved is to show up at protests, where you can find petitions, resources and a community of people who support reproductive healthcare. These are the type of actions we need to take in order to ensure that more women do not die from a lack of access to safe, legal abortion.

Katie Maraldo is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at kmaraldo@umich.edu