Roe v Wade protest

Students protest for the right to abortion access at the Washington County Courthouse this past May.

I remember the day Roe v. Wade was overturned very vividly. It was June this year. I was quarantined with COVID-19, dazed and scrolling mindlessly through TikTok. That’s when I came across a video of a woman saying how she was upset at work because her rights were taken away that morning.

Confused, I ran to Google and checked the news. My heart sank. What the Supreme Court had been trying to do for years — getting rid of the constitutional right of abortion and the federal protections behind it — had finally come to fruition. The Supreme Court reversed the Roe ruling in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, and states are now able to ban abortion altogether, making it harder for people to access them.

Three months have passed since then, and the women in this country are still reeling. My change in environment — moving out of my parent’s house and into a college dorm — provided even more perspective on just how negatively this ruling would affect us, especially college-aged women.

Hookup culture circulates on many campuses because college is a time to experiment and find yourself. You make connections from meeting people outside of the bubble of your home and experience new, exciting things with no parents to regulate these interactions. That includes sex and relationships, while also navigating moving out and college coursework.

This culture creates huge pressure to have sexual experiences. Additionally, with Roe overturned, there is more anxiety surrounding casual sex. It is also becoming progressively more important to discuss the new challenges of abortion with a partner and how you wish to go forward.

This isn’t to say that everyone should stay celibate through college. Instead, remember to practice safe sex, express consent and only do it because you want to. Chances are if you’re nervous about it, your partner is too.

Regardless, there is still a stigma behind women, specifically, in college who do engage in these practices and those who do not. It seems impossible to win.

Unfortunately, these pressures on sexual habits can bring unwanted sexual advances, and even sexual assault. A Campus Sexual Assault study done by the National Institute of Justice concluded, after surveying over 5,000 college-aged women, around one-fifth are sexually assaulted.

Women who are sexual assault survivors have lost part of their autonomy because of Dobbs. The Tennessean reports around 3 million women experience pregnancies caused by rape. Recalling that 1 in 5 college-aged women experience various forms of sexual assault, the ruling affects our demographic more than we realize. State abortion laws and respective reproductive rights are even influencing where women choose to go to college.

Living in a new place with limited resources, women in college who get pregnant from these acts of sexual violence have few places to turn. It would require a significant amount of money and time away from school to travel to the closest state that allows abortions, not to mention the lasting trauma from the incident all while juggling college classes. Abortion is illegal in Arkansas, and the closest states that still offer them — Kansas and Illinois — are at least three hours away. 

This decision has a significantly larger negative on Black women, who received 38% of abortions in 2019 and are three times more likely to die from complications from pregnancy, according to a study by Forbes Magazine. It becomes increasingly obvious every day the decision to overturn Roe is displaying disastrous consequences on all women living in the U.S., no matter what you personally believe.

All this being said, if you choose to have sex with someone, it is now more important than ever to use protection and weigh out your options. It is easy to succumb to the pressure of hookup culture, but in the end, it’s up to you.

At the same time, it is crucial for women to stay safe on campus. It is recommended to always carry pepper spray or a taser, keep your phone charged every day, tell friends where you’re going at all times, be aware of your surroundings, lock your door, watch your drinks at all times, trust your gut, not walk alone at night and always find a buddy.

Victims of sexual violence can seek help using titleix.uark.edu.

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