Campus pulse: Student and University Response to the Overturning of Roe v. Wade


Durham, NH- A counter demonstration in response to Students for Life America’s tabling event forms outside the Memorial Union Building at UNH.

Aleksandra Bedard, Staff Writer

DURHAM, NH- On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court ruled six to three to overturn Roe vs. Wade–a previous court decision affirming access to abortions under American’s right to privacy, in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision. The outcome shocked the nation, with strong reactions of both extreme happiness and anger. In Durham, the decision has been a hot topic among students, with pro and anti-abortion groups looking for their next steps.

On Wednesday, Sept. 14, the anti-abortion group Students for Life of America ran a table outside the Memorial Union Building, which drew in counter protesters supporting the pro-abortion movement.

“We just want to make our presence known and know that there are two very obvious sides to this discussion and both sides are represented,” explained Abby Pickney, the first student present at the counter protest. “I hate when there’s not representation for both sides.”

Later that night, the University of New Hampshire’s chapter of Planned Parenthood Generation Action (PPGA) drew in 70 students at their first meeting of the semester, several of whom were at the earlier counter protest. PPGA is part of a nationwide network of college groups backed by Planned Parenthood; however, leadership from the UNH chapter maintained that the students at the counter protest were not representing the organization.

At the meeting, leadership gave students a platform to voice their frustrations.

“It was definitely uncomfortable at first,” undergraduate student Wendy Richardson said of the earlier counter protest. “I was you like you know what, now is the time to do it, I felt like I was in a safe space and I wasn’t alone.”

As an activist engaged with the movement for several years, PPGA executive board member Maggie Miller described the changes she’s seen since the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

“Last year, it didn’t seem like right out the bat, there were anti-choicers right outside the MUB,” she said.“We’re all seeing that and hating it and being enraged by it.”

Fellow board members Willow Strother and Izzy Medeiros emphasized the role PPGA plays in creating a safe space for students concerned about the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

“I think now more than ever people want to show up more,” added Medeiros.

On a broader level, university administration is working to cater to students on both sides of the debate. In a university-wide email released shortly after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, President Dean described the decision as “a complex topic with many ethical, religious, political, economic and health dimensions to be considered,” and maintained that university administration will monitor its effect on the community going forward.

At Health & Wellness, staff have ensured that the court’s decision will not affect the access students have to reproductive care. Dawn Zitney, a well-Being counselor, expressed over email that Health & Wellness provides the pill, IUDs, Nexplanon and emergency contraception. Students who have paid the health fee may see a provider at no cost. Students who have not paid the health fee or seek procedures like IUD or Nexplanon placement may bill the procedure to their insurance. Zitney explained that when billing insurance, Health & Wellness cannot guarantee confidentiality from parents. However, service providers at Health & Wellness are willing to work with students and their insurance to protect confidentiality.

Zitney discussed the confusion some students have felt since the decision. In times where future access to reproductive care seems uncertain, students have felt motivated to seek long-term contraceptives such as an IUD or Nexplanon. At the PPGA meeting, multiple students disclosed their choice to switch to a long-term contraceptive in response to the decision.

Still, going forward, the university is optimistic. Throughout October, Health & Wellness will provide Sextober, a series of sex education programs, events and workshops. One event being, The Future of Reproductive Rights in New Hampshire hosted by Oyster River Equity and Justice. The event will be a community discussion regarding the fall of Roe v. Wade, and reproductive rights in the local area- held on Oct. 18., in the Community Church of Durham.  

Zitney emphasized the university’s dedication to keeping these resources available. 

“The fall of Roe has challenged our sense of safety and security. At Health & Wellness we will always provide shame-free, sex-positive, inclusive medical care and education.”