Are college campuses ready for a post-Roe world? Here’s what students need to know.

·4 min read

As students return to college campuses around the country for the beginning of another school year, students will have to deal with different abortion laws for the first time since 1973.

What will their new reality look like on college campuses, and what should colleges do in preparation for the first post-Roe school year?

Much of that depends on what state they are in and how their campuses are reacting.

I reached out to 13 colleges and university systems of various sizes and locations around the United States, including the University of California, which consists of 10 institutions, and the University of Texas System, which consists of 13 institutions. Only two entities responded that they were taking extra steps to support their students after the U.S. Supreme Court laid down the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision in June.

It didn't surprise me that colleges don't seem to be doing enough to support students navigating this new landscape.

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Why does the location of your campus matter now?

Women ages 20-24 make up almost 28% of those who get legal abortions and account for the highest abortion rate of any other age group, at 19 abortions per 1,000 women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These numbers should be particularly concerning for U.S. colleges, where women ages 18-24 are three times more likely to be sexually assaulted than other women.

Abortion-rights march on College Avenue on June 24, 2022, in Appleton, Wis.
Abortion-rights march on College Avenue on June 24, 2022, in Appleton, Wis.

Students in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas, among others, would not be able to get an abortion with no exception for rape. Texas houses some of the largest colleges in the United States, with Texas A&M University – College Station and The University of Texas at Austin each hosting more than 50,000 students on campus during the school year. More states will likely join their ranks later this summer when trigger laws go into effect, like Tennessee and Idaho.

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Brittne Martin, the founder of Doctoral Mom Inc., which assists over 10,000 student moms and graduates at over 100 colleges, said dozens of students reached out last month. They inquired about transferring to colleges where abortion is legal, fearing the financial burden of potentially raising a child and the lack of flexibility and resources at institutions for student parents.

What are colleges doing to prepare for post-Roe life?

Some colleges are taking the reins and leading by example by expanding access to emergency contraception and abortion pills in preparation for the first post-Roe school year.

University of California's student health centers are working to offer abortion by medication techniques by the Jan. 1 deadline set by a new state law, according to a UC health representative.

The University of Michigan established a task force to study and plan for the impacts of an abortion ban on reproductive health services and has held forums to hear student concerns. The university is also considering providing easier access to medication-induced abortion and making emergency contraception available beyond student health centers, using vending machines on campus, according to a university spokesperson.

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What about students who become parents?

In June, President Joe Biden proposed new Title IX regulations that will require schools to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant students and employees. But it is not clear when those provisions will go into effect, making it important for schools to take it upon themselves to support student parents. Students with children are 10 times less likely to complete a bachelor’s degree within five years than students without children, according to national data.

The parenting student population on campuses is often overlooked and could experience an even greater crisis without more resources post-Roe v. Wade. Martin said abortion bans and restrictions may certainly increase the number of student parents, who will need more flexible policies, financial assistance and spaces for moms.

“If students have to make the choice to become a mother, if that’s their only option, colleges need lactation spaces, day care facilities and classroom environments where the child can potentially come into the course with the mother,” said Martin, who gave birth to three children while pursuing her doctorate in marketing.

What does all this mean for college students?

Without the option of abortion, students could be forced to suffer immense emotional, physical and financial burdens of raising a child against their will. Decisions about where they choose to go to college and what kind of relationships they have will matter more.

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Once students arrive on campus, they need greater access to birth control choices like the pill and emergency contraception like Plan B, which remains legal for now.

Most important, all these resources make no difference if students do not know about them. Colleges must make it a priority to not only expand resources for students and parenting students, but also to advertise them at the beginning of the school year or as early as the admissions process  so students are not left in the dark while facing their new reality.

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Ashley Ahn is an opinion intern for USA TODAY. She previously covered the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines for CNN’s health and medical unit and the trial of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers for CNN’s Atlanta News Bureau. Follow her on Twitter: @ashleyahn88

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: With Roe gone, colleges must expand abortion, birth control resources