Students return to campus without access to abortion

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Before Abby Roth entered her freshman year at the University of Texas at Austin, she had a plan to make sure her college years didn’t include a pregnancy or a child she wasn’t ready to have. She would take birth control pills and use condoms with her boyfriend — and if she got pregnant, she would travel out of state for an abortion.

The music education student from Plano, Texas, had been working on the plan with her mother in anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision this summer that overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, triggering a state law that has banned nearly all abortion in Texas. Now, in the midst of starting new classes on Monday and joining a sorority, she’s also worried about the new law.

“Texas is choosing the life of the baby over the life of the mother,” he said. “I don’t want that to happen to me.”

Roth is among students who say new abortion restrictions in states like Texas, Ohio and Indiana are affecting their personal and political behavior as they return to college campuses this fall. The changes are public, sparking activism from both opponents and supporters of abortion rights, but they are also intimate.

Ohio State University said the decision does not change the services provided by Student Health Services or its medical center, noting that Ohio has already banned state institutions from performing elective abortions. It also does not affect how OSU’s Title IX office handles sexual assault reports.

But some students say those situations have crossed their minds as they contemplate the fall of Roe and Ohio’s abortion ban with the first detectable “fetal heartbeat.” This can be as early as six weeks pregnant, before many people know they are pregnant.

Nikki Mikov, a junior from Dayton, Ohio State, said news of the legal changes initially made her nervous that her options would be limited if she became pregnant. But when she returned to campus last week, she said her thoughts were more focused on more immediate things — moving, friends, classes.

Discussions about the changing landscape of abortion access appear to have subsided since the beginning of the summer, said Brian Roseboro, an Ohio State senior from Montclair, New Jersey. But the 21-year-old, who is single, said the new law has made him more careful and conscious about using contraception this year.

“I definitely think about it a lot more,” Roseboro said.

Ohio State University junior Jamie Miller said he participated in several protests this summer, including one where he gave a speech about how support for abortion rights overlaps with advocating for bodily autonomy for trans people like him.

More closely, Miller, 20, said the new abortion limits influenced the decision he and his partner made to avoid sexual activity that could endanger pregnancy. After years of taking testosterone, pregnancy wouldn’t be healthy for him or the child, he said, adding that it would also derail his education and put him in debt.

“It would be pretty devastating in every sense of my life,” Miller said.

After Emily Korenman, of Dallas, decided to study business at Indiana University, she was disappointed to learn that her new state passed new abortion restrictions that take effect on Sept. 15 and allow for 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 during college.

“Personally, I don’t know if abortion would be the choice I would make,” Korenman said. “But I would respect anybody’s opinion, you know, whoever the body is, they have the 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 engage with like-minded organizations that support sexual assault survivors and collect baby supplies for parents in need.

They also hope to further their cause to end 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 change other people’s minds” about abortion, Lauren said. McKean, a sophomore at Purdue University Fort Wayne.

Abortion rights advocates are also planning the campus outreach.

Cleveland State University sophomore Giana Formica said she got hundreds of condoms through a nonprofit for her campus advocacy group to distribute and bought some emergency contraception to have in case someone she knows needs it.

“As a queer person at this stage in my life, it’s very likely that I’m not in a place where I’m going to get pregnant,” she said. “I do it for other people because it’s not something I need properly. this second.”

Formica said she also expects to face more aggressive arguments from abortion opponents during campus outreach activities with her chapter of URGE — Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity. So she thinks about how to navigate these conversations with fellow students and where she draws the line to cut them off.

Zoya Gheisar also thinks about how to talk about it. She runs a student club affiliated with Planned Parenthood at Denison University in Ohio. Heading into the new school year, she was still trying to figure out what information peer sex educators would provide when talking to freshmen and how to help club members more empathetically discuss abortion issues.

“When we have discussions as a club, I really try to stay away from the rhetoric that can be so polarizing,” said Gezar, a 22-year-old from Seattle.

Her hope, she said, is to move toward a conversation that recognizes “this is a really intimate thing, with real people at the heart and core of it.”


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Franco reported from Columbus, Ohio. Associated Press reporter Patrick Orsagos in Columbus contributed.

Rodgers is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative corps. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on undercover issues.

The Associated Press education team receives support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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