BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Students returning to college are faced with a new reality in states like Texas, Ohio and Indiana: abortion, an option for an unplanned pregnancy when they were last on campus, has since been banned, often with few exceptions.
Students said they have made changes both publicly and intimately since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling this summer overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling. Students said they are using more birth control, and some have made a plan to leave the state for an abortion if they become pregnant. They are also taking public stances, with increasing activism from both opponents and advocates of abortion rights.
Conversations about the changing landscape of abortion access appear to have waned since early summer, said Brian Roseboro, a senior at Ohio State University from Montclair, New Jersey. But the 21-year-old, who is single, said the new law makes him more cautious and aware of using contraception this year.
“I’m definitely thinking about it a lot more,” Roseboro said.
Ohio State University said the ruling does not change Student Health Services or the medical center, noting that Ohio already banned state agencies from performing elective abortions. It also does not affect how OSU’s Title IX office handles reports of sexual assault.
But some students say those situations have crossed their minds when they think about the fall of Roe and Ohio’s abortion ban at the first observable “fetal heartbeat.” That can be after six weeks of pregnancy, before many people know they are pregnant.
Nikki Mikov, an Ohio State junior from Dayton, said the news of the legal changes initially made her nervous that her options would be limited if she became pregnant. But by the time she got back to campus last week, she said her mind was more focused on more immediate things—moving, friends, classes.
Ohio University junior Jamie Miller said he took part in several protests this summer, including one where he gave a speech explaining how support for abortion rights overlaps with advocating for physical autonomy for transgender people like him.
More intimately, Miller, 20, said the new abortion limits affected the decision he made with his partner to avoid sexual activity that could risk a pregnancy. After years of taking testosterone, a pregnancy wouldn’t be healthy for him or the child, he said, adding that it would also disrupt his education and put him in debt.
“It would be pretty catastrophic in every way of my life,” Miller said.
After Emily Korenman of Dallas decided to study business at Indiana University, she was frustrated to learn that her new state has passed new abortion restrictions that come into effect September 15 and allow limited exceptions. The 18-year-old said she hasn’t changed her mind about attending a school she really likes, but she’s not sure what she would do if she got pregnant while in college.
“Personally, I don’t know if abortion would be the choice I would make,” Korenman said. “But I would respect everyone’s opinion, you know, whoever the body is, they have a right to make that choice.”
Anti-abortion activists in states like Indiana and Ohio say they plan to push for more campus support for pregnant students, now that abortion is no longer an option in most cases.
Students for Life of America campus members say they plan to partner with like-minded organizations that support survivors of sexual assault and collect baby items for parents in need.
They also hope to further their goal of ending abortion. They want to build relationships, even with people who have different views on abortion, and “find where we can agree so we can help them and then move on to change other people’s minds” about abortion, Lauren McKean said. , a sophomore at Purdue University Fort Wayne.
Abortion rights supporters also plan campus outreach.
Giana Formica, a sophomore at Cleveland State University, said she’s gotten hundreds of condoms through a nonprofit for her on-campus advocacy group, and she bought some emergency contraception in case someone she knows needs it.
“As a queer individual at this stage of my life, I most likely will not be in a place where I get pregnant,” she said. “I’m doing this for other people because it’s not something I really need. This second.”
Formica said she also expects more aggressive disagreement from abortion opponents during campus outreach activities with its chapter of URGE – Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity. So she thinks about how to navigate those conversations with fellow students and where she draws the boundaries to shut them down.
Zoya Gheisar is also thinking about how to talk about it. She heads a Planned Parenthood-affiliated sorority at Denison University in Ohio. On the eve of the new school year, she was still trying to figure out what information peer sex educators will provide when they talk to freshmen, and how club members can talk more empathically about abortion issues.
“When we have conversations as a club, I really try to stay away from the rhetoric that can be so polarizing,” said Gheisar, a 22-year-old from Seattle.
Her hope, she said, is to move toward a discussion that recognizes that “this is a really intimate thing, with real people at the heart and core.”
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Franko reported from Columbus, Ohio. Associated Press reporter Patrick Orsagos in Columbus contributed.
Rodgers is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a national, not-for-profit service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on classified issues.
The Associated Press education team is supported by New York’s Carnegie Corporation. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
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