Pepperdine students attend an abortion-rights protest in Buenos Aires, Argentina on June 27. Students said the outpouring of support from Argentineans was humbling. Photo Courtesy of Isabella Lincoln
Editor’s Note: Pepperdine Graphic Media uses AP style to avoid bias and be consistent in language, as well as to follow other professional news organizations. AP style has the following rules for reporting on abortion, which will be used throughout this article. “Pro-life” will be denoted as “anti-abortion,” and “pro-choice” will be denoted as “abortion-rights,” unless in quotes or proper names.
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24 via the Dobbs v. Jackson case sending shockwaves through the country. Pepperdine students received this news in various locations over summer break.
In the month following, students have contemplated the decision and what it means for the future.
The Dobbs decision, decided with a 6-3 majority, held that the Constitution does not guarantee the right to an abortion, and left the decision to the states.
“I think what a lot of people have forgotten with our fancy debate tactics and all of our science and facts or whatever we have, at the end of the day, these are real people and they’re real situations,” junior Rebecca Jackson said. “They deserve to be treated as such. And it’s not just about being right.”
A Time for Conversation
Jackson said she has been a part of the anti-abortion movement for about four years.
“I didn’t know if I would ever see Roe v. Wade overturned in my lifetime,” Jackson said. “Waking up and seeing that I was just shocked, that was definitely the first thing. But after it hit me and I’m like, ‘Oh, OK, that happened.’ I had this sense of joy, and I remember crying in my bed.”
Jackson said she recognizes this decision has a huge effect on others, and wants to respect that.
“I don’t claim that this is an easy decision or that it’s all sunshine because it’s not,” Jackson said. “Hearing stories of women who have been impacted by this decision, I think has definitely brought [sadness], not sadness that dampens my joy because I do think that they can be separate, and that they don’t necessarily have to impact one another.”
Jackson said while she does not always feel comfortable having conversations about abortion, a lack of conversation leads to assumptions that cause more harm than good.
“My friends and I have real conversations all the time, we still don’t agree, we’re still very polarized in our opinions,” Jackson said. “But we’re able to come to a place where we’re like, ‘OK, well, we both agree that XY and Z are bad, so even if we don’t agree about this other thing over here, let’s work to fix these things, because we both agree on these.’”
For Jackson, she said being a member of the anti-abortion movement means being pro-love, and being both willing to listen and help.
“I know sometimes pro-life people make it seem like ‘Oh, all we only care about is the life in the womb,’” Jackson said. “It’s like no, we have two living beings and they need to be cared for. And so I think that’s part of the pro-life stance as well as just loving people.”
Not the Final Outcome
While the Pepperdine College Republicans celebrates the outcome of the Dobbs decision, the outcome is not the final victory for the anti-abortion movement, the leaders of the PCR wrote in a July 9 email to the Graphic.
“A complete pro-life agenda accounts for the rights of the unborn, and it must also account and provide for people struggling to make ends meet while raising families, for single and working class parents, and for children in areas where education is less accessible,” wrote leaders of the PCR.
For example, leaders of the PCR wrote they will be advocating for expansions to child-tax credit and other life-affirming objectives such as rebuilding civil family support.
“We hope for a future in which the right to life of the unborn as well as the value of life at every stage is recognized and upheld nationwide,” wrote leaders of the PCR. “The right has always insisted that we are pro-life and not just ‘pro-birth.’ Now we get to prove it.”
Different Countries; Different Perspectives
Sophomore Faith Chang said she learned Roe v. Wade was overturned while she was participating in Pepperdine’s Uganda program, and sought out both conservative and liberal sources to learn more.
Chang said the issue of abortion is too nuanced to reduce to extremes.
“For my own personal choices and moral obligation, I don’t think abortion is necessarily something that I agree with and think is right,” Chang said. “However, I don’t think, personally, that it’s the government’s right either to say that it’s wrong, and to not give women a choice at all.
While in Uganda, Chang said the differences in the country’s political culture put the topic into perspective. Chang said the U.S. has a very individualistic culture, compared to Uganda where culture is more community-based, and opportunities are discussed in terms of duty rather than rights.
For example, Chang said that in one of the villages she visited, women expected to go blind at a certain age, due to time spent cooking over an open flame.
“I am worried for women who have to face [the overturning of Roe v. Wade] and have to face the probability that they won’t have a choice, at the same time I’m thinking those women in Uganda — that’s their everyday life,” Chang said. “So coming back with that perspective was really shocking. And that is not at all diminishing the struggles of the women here [in the U.S.], they struggle a lot.”
Students in Argentina Attend Protest
Junior Isabella Lincoln was at a gym in Buenos Aires, Argentina when her friend received a text that the Supreme Court had overturned Roe v. Wade. Five minutes later, Lincoln said they both got an Apple News alert.
“It was weird to be surrounded by people who live in Argentina and who had no idea that that had just happened because me and her were standing there just shocked and really upset, and everyone else had no clue what Roe v. Wade was, just living life as normal,” Lincoln said. “So it was kind of shocking and really surreal.”
Junior Raquel Jimenez-Cedillo said when she found out, she immediately exited social media apps, not wanting to be near her phone at all.
“I just thought about how, it feels like the older I get the more we’re going backwards,” Jimenez-Cedillo said.
Sophomore Sofia Reyes said being abroad when hearing the news added to her frustration.
“I felt there wasn’t enough resources for me to take actions in the way I wanted to, as quickly as I wanted to, just because I was so far away from home,” Reyes said. “Especially seeing my mom and my sister and other people in my life being able to, day of, go to protests and discuss the events with people who are actually being affected by it at the moment it’s happening.”
Junior Adian Imbrogno-Mastin said after hearing of the results, he immediately wanted to support those around him the decision most affected — and felt the need to mobilize. Imbrogno-Mastin said opportunity came in the form of an email notification, alerting students to an abortion-rights protest June 27.
Imbrogno-Mastin said he asked the professor if students could leave class to attend the protest, and the professor said to pose the question to the class.
“I think there was about 20 students in the class, and about 15 to 17 raised their hands and I was so shocked and so excited,” Imbrogno-Mastin said.
Abroad, Reyes said she questioned how to voice her opinion — until she attended the protest.
“We all went and that was something I didn’t think I knew that I needed to do, because I knew I wanted to protest but it had never occurred to me that that would be an option while I was not in the U.S., especially for an issue that pertained to the U.S. and to America,” Reyes said.
Junior Alex Cordova said one of the chants that stuck out to her was “aborto si, aborto no, la decisión es de yo,” roughly translating to “abortion yes, abortion no, let the decision be mine.”
“That’s what the whole pro-abortion thing, is about,” Cordova said. “It’s not about, ‘Oh, I’m getting an abortion, I’m for getting myself an abortion.’ It’s just the right to choose and the right for privacy and individuality.”
Pepperdine students were the only American students present at the protest, Lincoln said, as other university’s abroad programs had either ended or were barred from attending.
Noticing the English signs, Lincoln said Argentinians at the protest would come up and talk to the students. Lincoln said explaining the process of the Supreme Court was interesting as many Argentinians she spoke to believed the justices were voted in, or overturning Roe v. Wade occurred via a popular vote.
Jimenez-Cedillo said her feelings of dissatisfaction with the system have gotten worse over time, but the protest provided a sense of unity.
“It broke my heart that we were having to march in the first place to protect women’s rights,” Jimenez-Cedillo said. “I just remember feeling so cared about by a bunch of people that definitely have nothing to do with us really, and I just felt supported, to the point where I was tearing up.”
After the protest, Jimenez said students conversed with Pepperdine staff and were offered a safe space to open up and discuss their feelings.
Reyes said the staff at Pepperdine’s BA program were supportive, but questioned whether l’d receive similar support on Malibu’s campus, in light of the PCR’s anti-abortion Freedom Wall display in September.
During the fall 2021 semester, members of the PCR covered the Freedom Wall with black crosses, in what the PCR said was a memorial to the lives lost because of abortion. Over the following days, students hung abortion-rights messages in response, covering the anti-abortion display.
“I always think if this had happened while I was on the Malibu campus would those protests be as accessible, would we be as supported by the staff and the people there?” Reyes said.
Return to the United States
Alongside the usual sadness of an abroad program ending, Lincoln said the Supreme Court Decision added a reluctance to return to the U.S..
“As soon as we landed, and we were in the Atlanta airport, the TV’s were on and it was all talking about Roe v. Wade being overturned,” Lincoln said. “It was a wake up call because we had been talking about it, but we hadn’t been in a giant area where everyone knew exactly what was going on.”
Lincoln returned to Colorado, and she said while many residents are divided on their views of abortion, the governor issued a statement protecting abortion access in the state. Despite this, Lincoln said the decision has caused her to think more about if or when she would have children.
“Already I’ve seen a lot of people saying things that they would definitely not say before, because this gave them suddenly the place where they can voice their pro-life views,” Lincoln said. “And I mean, I have friends who have been told that they look like great child bearers now and they have never heard that before.”
Returning to Texas, Jimenez-Cedillo said it felt embarrassing to return to the U.S. with less rights than she left with and is afraid for those who may not have access to a safe abortion, and choose to get an abortion anyway.
“I feel in the long run, I’m not going to feel very supported or cared about by my own government,” Jimenez-Cedillo said. “When they took away our right to choose what happens to our bodies and do it in regard of creating new life, I felt like the metaphor of the man was putting his foot on my chest.”
Reyes said as a first generation Latina woman, there is added exasperation with the concept of white feminism.
“Seeing women show up for this but not show up for other minority issues can also be frustrating,” Reyes said. “Because there’s almost this sort of competition, I feel that has shown up especially on online discourse of some more privileged women being like, ‘This is the movement of the century.’”
Returning to California, Reyes said while she knows the state will support her, it is frustrating fighting for the same rights her mother fought for years before.
“How are we supposed to keep existing in a cycle where we’re just playing cat and mouse with basic human rights for me and all the women in my life,” Reyes said.
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