How College Students Are Fighting For Abortion Rights on Campus

At a table at Texas A & M University, Molly Davis, 20, stands in front of a sign that reads in bubbly handwriting, “ABORTION IN TX POST ROE.” On the table, there are stacks of goodie bags for students, decorated with glitter and strings. Inside the bags, there are condoms, lube, voter registration cards, pink heart stickers with the slogan “ABORTION ACCESS SAVES LIVES” and QR codes that, when scanned, give information about Plan C and local abortion funds.

Sometimes, when Molly is tabling for abortion rights with other members of the Islander Feminists, a student club for intersectional feminism, they’re approached by members of church groups. One interaction sticks in Molly’s mind: when an older church leader came over to the Islander Feminists table and stood in front of it, seemingly to dissuade students from stopping to get resources. “He asked us if we’d had abortions and if we know what that means,” Molly says. “He asked what our religious beliefs are and why we believe murder is alright. He asked us how we’re qualified and told us why we’re wrong.” After a few minutes of back-and-forth with the church leader, Molly asked him to step aside. With an older man standing in front of abortion resources, students were less likely to stop and get the information they needed, she said, because they’re scared of being judged.

The Islander Feminists table.

Molly Davis with Islander Feminists

But this is the reality of being a college student in Texas, where abortion is now banned, with no exceptions for rape or incest. At least 13 other states also currently have full abortion bans in the wake of the Dobbs Supreme Court decision, which repealed Roe v. Wade and upended decades of abortion rights. And in the states where access to abortion is now a memory, students are fighting to bring reproductive healthcare access to their communities.

In her work at Texas A & M, Molly says she’s focused on destigmatizing abortion through education and awareness. “Especially in Texas, you can’t even begin to talk about it without battling the stigma.” Within the embrace of the Islander Feminists group, Molly feels a sense of hope that was missing before. “We’ve found a sense of unity and it’s empowering to work in an organization with others my age fighting for the same thing,” she says. One of her favorite moments was when a group of high school students who were touring the university stopped at the Islander Feminists table. The high school students told the college students about their worries being teenagers in a post-Roe Texas. When they left, they left with handfuls of goodie bags to hand out to their fellow high school students, full of condoms and stickers and information.

In Georgia, where abortion is currently banned after six weeks gestation, Jill King, 21, focuses her activism at the intersection of reproductive rights and disability advocacy. Jill, who is blind and chronically ill, is part of the Students with Disabilities Advocacy Group at Georgia Southern University as well as the Young Democrats of Georgia Southern. She sees the two prongs of her advocacy as inextricably linked, as stories emerge of chronically ill and disabled people who can get pregnant (but are not currently) being denied medications to regulate their chronic conditions because those same medications could be used to induce abortion. Jill was just diagnosed with arthritis herself and one of the medications used to treat it is under scrutiny and was denied to a 14-year-old girl in Arizona because of its potential as an abortifacient. For Jill, who lives in a rural Georgia community, the stress is compounding. “Getting accessible healthcare is already so hard in a rural area as a disabled person,” Jill says. “It adds another layer of approval for these medications for women of childbearing age. You already have the stress… then you think, someone cares more about that than me controlling my disease.”

The Students with Disabilities Advocacy Group co-sponsored two Rally for Roe events in the small town of Statesboro, Georgia. Jill was surprised by how many people attended the events – she estimates there were 50 people at the first one and one 150 at the second. There were older women who attended, Jill says, and talked about what it was like to grow up pre-Roe and how they didn’t want to see that world become a reality again.

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