Forty years after the ruling on Roe v. Wade, the debate about abortion rages on nationwide. At Knox, however, the student body seems to be generally supportive of abortion rights.
On Jan. 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that legalized abortion. The decision was based on upholding the right to privacy, which, the court decided, extended to a woman’s actions regarding her pregnancy.
“When it comes to America, we’re all about … inalienable rights,” sophomore and Advocates for Choice co-president Rachel Kuehnle said. “I also think that covers my health rights.”
To commemorate the 40-year anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling, Advocates for Choice held a series of events on campus, including an Internet campaign where students were encouraged to tweet and post on Facebook and Tumblr about why they supported Roe v. Wade.
“That’s how our generation communicates with each other,” Kuehnle said. “We thought that was a good way … to get others who hadn’t thought about it before thinking about it.”
Advocates for Choice also showed “If These Walls Could Talk,” a film following three women through the process of getting abortions, and invited students to write their thoughts on Roe v. Wade on a whiteboard and pose for pictures.
All of these events received a “pretty positive” response from the student body, Kuehnle said.
“There were a few questions, I think, but it was more that they were curious rather than ‘I disagree with you and you’re wrong,’” she said.
Sophomore Madeline Troy, a member of Advocates for Choice, said she believed that no one but herself should have jurisdiction over what she does with her body.
“My constitutional rights shouldn’t be taken away just because I’m a woman,” she said.
Nationally, opinions remain divided. A joint NBC/Wall Street Journal poll conducted on Jan. 22 found that 70 percent of respondents opposed overturning Roe v. Wade. The same poll found that 54 percent of respondents believed that abortion should be legal — far from the 100 percent Kuehnle and other pro-choice activists hope to achieve.
“It’s hard to think if that gap will ever close,” Kuehnle said. “I think a lot of it has to do with religion … [and] with feminist backlash. When it comes to controlling abortion, it’s really about controlling women and not letting them make their own decisions about their bodies.”
Prior to Roe v. Wade, authoritative statistics on abortion were hard to come by. In 1967, researchers in North Carolina estimated that 800,000 abortions, most of them illegal, were performed that year, according to the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.
Sophomore Paige Lee pointed out that in some cases, not getting an abortion can endanger the life of the mother. In others, unsafe abortion methods can be just as risky.
“Making abortions illegal doesn’t stop the need for abortions,” Lee said. “They’ll just be really unsafe, and lots of people will die.”
As the national debate continues, junior Phil Bennett said that what has already been accomplished is “incredible,” although there is still room for progress.
“I’m glad people are taking the time to reflect,” Bennett said. “All humans should have rights over their bodies.”