College of Health and Human Services Faculty Discuss Public Health Implications of Supreme Court Ruling Limiting Women’s Reproductive Freedom 

SCOTUS in shadow

Faculty in the College of Health and Human Services share their perspectives on the public health implications of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24, 2022, decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision protecting a woman's liberty to choose to have an abortion. The decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization upheld a Mississippi law that makes abortion illegal after 15 weeks of pregnancy.  

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Karen Grace

Karen Trister Grace, PhD, MSN, CNM, FACNM, Assistant Professor, School of Nursing  

For survivors of intimate partner violence, abortion is a critical strategy for achieving safety and separation from a violent or coercive partner. Abortion is also an essential medical procedure and a key component of public health. Autonomy in reproductive decision-making is a core human right that I will continue to fight to provide for my patients.  

Jhumka Gupta, ScD, Associate Professor, Department of Global and Community Health  

Jhumka Gupta

This decision severely threatens the health of women and all those who can become pregnant. Not everyone will be able to travel out of state for an abortion – and the egregious health impacts will disproportionately impact those who already face the brunt of societal and health injustices, including those with less income, those who are disabled, Black communities and other communities of color, survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual assault, and immigrant communities. This is essentially violence through policy. Access to safe abortion is a basic public health and human right.  

Michelle D. Hand, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Social Work  

My concern is that women will remain in domestically violent relationships for an even longer period of time, which would

Michelle Hand

place both themselves and their children at an increased risk for violence and early death. This decision, surrounding the autonomy of women’s bodies, will likely impact survivors of sexual violence as well, exacerbating pre-existing reasonable responses to trauma. Several women will likely feel that their voices are silenced within our healthcare system, which is already in need of a more trauma-informed, patient-centered approach. As such, we, as healthcare professionals and scholars, will need to explore more trauma-responsive resources, interventions and approaches to healthcare delivery along with further domestic violence prevention and intervention strategies, while advocating for policy change.  

Anna Z. Pollack, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Global and Community Health 

Anna Pollack

Abortion is health care. Today's decision will disproportionately impact birthing people of color. The maternal mortality rate is 2-3 times higher for Black birthing people compared to White birthing people. Wealthy people will continue to be able to travel to obtain a safe abortion but poor individuals who lack the means to travel to obtain an abortion will experience adverse birth outcomes, which disproportionately impact communities of color. This decision will lead to increased childhood poverty, in a country that already leads the western world in that metric. Public health depends upon safe and equitable access to abortion.