Decisions Both in College and in Life: Will the Overturning of Roe Impact College Admissions?

With deadlines fast approaching, seniors have to complete their college applications and narrow down their school choices. Determining where to apply can be one of the most overwhelming decision a student can make. That being said, one is now prioritized more than ever in light of the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade: the location of the college.

The US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, thus taking away the Constitutional right to abortion. It was decided that states would be left to determine whether or not a person gets this right, so pro-choice states like New York  have already begun the process of adding these rights into their constitutions. However, other states—primarily those in the South—have done the total opposite: enacting trigger bans. 

“[I]t’s crazy how [in] different parts of the country, women have different rights,” Ami Farrell, a senior at Francis Lewis High School, expressed. “I think that’s totally unfair. You should have the same privileges regardless of what state you’re in.”

It should be no surprise to hear then, that location is becoming a major factor when figuring out where to apply for college. Having access to healthcare is crucial for maintaining one’s well being and the absence of this resource limits where someone can go. This is only reaffirmed when speaking with Farrell about her college plans.

“I’m not applying to schools in any states that currently have strict abortion laws, I don’t plan on doing that,” Farrell said. “I would not want to live somewhere where [it] is accepted as okay to treat women like their own lives don’t matter.”

Furthermore, the social repercussions that come with getting an abortion restricts student safety. Now, there’s an ever-present fear that one small mistake can ruin their lives—ironic considering colleges are regarded as a place of self-discovery and experimentation.

“I think [women who live in those states are] going be living in fear of what can happen to them,” Lucia Paredes, a senior at Francis Lewis High School, elaborated. “They’re away from home… I would think that those women are constantly deciding what they are doing. College is supposed to be a place where you’re having fun, you’re having sort of sexual freedom, and that’s being taken away from women, and I feel like that’s sort of robbing them of shaping their identities and it’s wrong.”

Indeed, the consequences of not having access to abortion greatly outweigh any possibility of going away for college. In addition to the social effects, students fear the physical ramifications of not having access to these resources. They seek to avoid severe situations, especially in cases where abortions are needed due to life-threatening circumstances.

“Not being able to have an abortion only prevents safe abortions because people can take other measures that are not safe,” Farrell warns. “And then also for things like if a fetus [is] not viable or passes away in the womb, or you have an ectopic pregnancy [and] it’s not removed. All of those things can put your life at risk.”

Safety in all forms has become high priority, so students are hoping to find protection in the schools they attend. Knowing that students have internal support can be comforting, and many of them want to remain with the schools that share their values.

“I think that a school should stay impartial to a woman’s choice in general, but I think that the opinion of a school would be very important,” Paredes said. “I would never go to a school with a value that is against women’s choice or holds conservative old-fashioned values.” 

A school’s opinion on abortion can be a striking indicator of where they fall on the political spectrum. However, location may not always be a proper indicator of a state’s viewpoint. Take Vanderbilt University, who has decided to give their students access to abortion resources despite being in a strict state; yet the opposite is true as well. The students who attend certain institutions may not reflect the ideas of their state.

“People tend to think that colleges are all liberal institutions. They’re not. They really are a cornucopia of ideas,” Mrs. Bell, a social studies teacher at Francis Lewis High School, detailed. “There are people who have these moral beliefs—whether it be one side or the other—that are shaped by how they were brought up, and how they interact with people, and who they interact with.”

This issue involves more layers than just a simple “red state vs. blue state” or “liberal vs. conservative” argument. Going to college in Tennessee won’t mean all your classmates are pro-lifers, nor will going to college in New York guarantee everyone around you is pro-choice. That being said, schools don’t determine legislation; states do.

“[T]he overturning of Roe v. Wade with Dobbs v. Jackson returned abortion back to the states. So regardless of whether my college might support abortion, if my state doesn’t, I still don’t have the right to an abortion to that in that state,” Farrell explained. “So at the end of the day, it’s important for schools to show support for women, but it’s more so the state that determines whether I would [want] to go or not.”

Regardless of that however, this is an issue students are determined to fight for with relentless spirit, something unwavering despite being in a protected state. Already we’ve seen teen activism rise in response to the Supreme Court’s decision as people aim to spread awareness, and that passion continues in our own school community. 

“I’ve seen a lot of people [from New York] have this idea that… it’s not happening to me, so I shouldn’t care. Out of sight, out of mind, but that’s so selfish,” Parades asserted. “You have to think about other people. There’s people in danger. So I think that I should be [looking out for] them. I’ll definitely open my eyes more and try to spread the word for other women in other states.”

The reality of it is, abortion is a complex issue. There is no straightforward answer when concluding how to approach the topic, even in relation to a potential college decision. That being said, no matter which college these students end up attending, the fight for their rights will never stop.

“I have, and I am, and I plan to continue advocating for women’s right to an abortion no matter where I am,” said Farrell. “Just because I might not be affected, one doesn’t mean that I never will be, and two doesn’t mean that there aren’t women being affected elsewhere in the country that need other people’s help.”