How Reproductive Health Laws Affect College Decisions

Roe v. Wade

Since Roe v. Wade was overturned in June 2022 there has been a cascade of events and decisions that have surrounded reproductive health, engulfing it in a storm of uncertainty or seizure. That wave has also hit other rights of vulnerable communities and left them in that same tempest. We can paint the big picture of the choices that are being made for people by people that don’t have skin in the game, but it is often the surprise choices that have to be made by the everyday person because the choices that those in power made, and those decisions can make life harder than it already was.

New Choices

There are currently 20 states that have either total bans on abortion or have highly restrictive laws, and while the number was higher, legal fights have resulted in many of those bans being blocked by those states’ high courts, but we are still left with a large number of states that have taken away the rights of birthing people. The choices that are left for those affected and allies are sometimes very clear, but others like college enrollment can be something of a surprise for many.
The choice of which college you want to go to is a big one. You are going to spend four years learning and building a new life that is going to be the jumping-off point for things to come. You continue discovering who you are in college, and contrary to what those politicians believe, many teenagers know who they are in high school — hence seeing teens in many protests (sometimes leading) against abortion and gender-affirming care bans. In most recent polls about 73% of unenrolled adults that range from 18-24 years old believe that reproductive health laws hold some sort of importance to their decision about which college to enroll into. That number is compared to 57% of unenrolled adults that range from 25-59 years old.
This choice is on the minds of future college students, and also on their parents’ minds, especially if they are footing the bill. Sending your kid to a school in a state where they won’t get the healthcare they need, which can affect their lives in numerous ways is a no-brainer. It’s a parent’s job to protect their child, and having the choice to end a pregnancy for any reason is the sort of protection that a parent would want for their kid when they are away at school. Of course, this is in line with the sense of safety that the students want for themselves and expect from a university when either they or their parents are paying a lot of money to that school. However, when that level of safety cannot be met, that attendance and money will be set elsewhere, especially to avoid possible penalties depending on the state.
Now, the choice to go to school in a state where abortion is legal is clear and accessible for a lot of people, but for those from already vulnerable communities like Black, Latino, Native American, Transgender, and low-income students that choice is not always clear and accessible.
If the decision is already made for them by part of finances that forces them to stay in state it poses questions to that sense of safety that is more heightened because the likelihood that folks from these communities could face stronger penalties than their white counterparts is always present, and if the laws change to the point where there are criminal charges applied, they will also face stronger charges. Reproductive rights for a long time do not take into account the social inequalities that have long been present, so with access to healthcare harder to find, punishment has the chance to be dealt out quicker and more severely.

The Important Bits

While there are more complex and heavy choices that come with reproductive health in a post-Roe world, life-changing outcomes happen no matter the level of severity. Where someone decides to go to college can do a lot for a person when it comes to applying for jobs, level of education, and overall social skills. If someone’s dream school is in a state that has an abortion ban or has highly restrictive laws, a choice between your dream and your healthcare is not easy no matter how it might seem, and sometimes the choice is taken away from you altogether from the very beginning.