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Advocates grapple with first Roe v. Wade Day without federal abortion protections

January 22, 2023
<p>Protestors block anti-abortion protestors with their signs and umbrellas. Planned Parenthood held a pro-choice rally at the Michigan Capitol on May 3, 2022, following news of the Supreme Court&#x27;s intention to overturn Roe v. Wade.</p>

Protestors block anti-abortion protestors with their signs and umbrellas. Planned Parenthood held a pro-choice rally at the Michigan Capitol on May 3, 2022, following news of the Supreme Court's intention to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Photo by Sheldon Krause | The State News

Jan. 22 marks Roe v. Wade Day, which has historically celebrated the landmark case that gave citizens the federal right to an abortion. This year, the 50th anniversary of the decision marks the first since these federal protections were reversed in 2022.

Students and advocates for abortion rights say this day is susceptible to looking different than it has in the past – with some believing there is no cause for celebration

Turning to activism

When the Supreme Court decision was made, neuroscience and Spanish sophomore McKenzie Kennedy said she "went to multiple protests about it."

She felt it was a reversal of history.

“It was the most disgusting thing that could have been done and it was extremely selfish for people to take that away from somebody,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy was not alone in her taking her anger to channels of political advocacy.

Political science senior Clarissa Mata is a member of MSU Planned Parenthood Generation Action and Latino Leaders in Policy. She was working for Hillary Scholten's congressional campaign at the time of the overturn. She said she remembers sobbing and having a pain in her chest when she heard the news.

Though she felt "very lost" with "no power," Mata immediately got back to work with the Congressional campaign that day, where her team made it clear they would focus on abortion rights for the next few months. The team went to countless protests and rallies, with the hopes they would see action taken come Nov.

“I had a lot of feelings about politics; I was very passionate,” Mata said. “I felt like I needed to do something.”

Communication and music junior Charlotte Plotzke said news of Roe v. Wade's overturn was a "slap in the face." She felt the need to consider eventually leaving Michigan to live somewhere else – somewhere with more abortion right protections. 

"It felt so sneaky,” Plotzke said. “It felt so out of my control and made me angry. The government should be for the people and it’s clear that these people are not for the majority.” 

A different tone this year

Though Michigan established rights to an abortion in its constitution following the passage of Proposal 3, Plotzke, Kennedy and Mata are not finished with their advocacy for abortion rights. For them, that means sitting out on the usual day of celebration

Plotzke said she won't be celebrating Roe v. Wade day this year because a number of states do not have a protected right to a safe abortion. 

“I don’t want to celebrate if not everyone has (rights),” Plotzke said. “I don’t think (the day) is going to look the same for them.” 

Mata, like Plotzke, does not think people will celebrate on Jan. 22, but will instead “bring more attention” to the day. She said she hopes people think about how different the US is for women now that there are no federal abortion protections. She hopes there's an emphasis on the fact that many women have fewer rights today than they were born with, something she said is "ridiculous." 

Mata is not just thinking about her rights, she said, but women across the United States

“This isn’t just about me; this is also about other people,” Mata said. “Yes, things might be fine for me, but I am not the only person on this planet." 

Plotzke said she is still “always trying to spread awareness” about these issues.

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 She continues to work as a college ambassador for FlyteDesk, an online network that helps her inspire activism through social media. Through this, Plotzke is connected to advocacy campaigns, where she makes infographics about abortion rights through organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, Vote America and Michigan Democrats.

Impacts on the future

Kennedy said she would have transferred out of MSU if Michigan didn't hold onto the protection of abortion rights. The Supreme Court ruling, she said, directly affects where she might live in her future, especially for graduate school

She's not alone in this concern. A Kaplan survey recently found that some medical school students' school choices will be impacted by where abortion is currently legal.

Human biology junior Becca Bienstock previously told The State News that she simply would not want to study in a state where she does not have all the rights that she feels she should have.

Kennedy said graduate schools are now looking at students' possible biases, including affiliations with organizations that are pro-choice – which she finds unfair. 

“Even my viewpoints and me belonging to Planned Parenthood and getting involved with that, there is controversy with putting that on my resume,” Kennedy said. “If other health care professionals see that I’m involved in that, I could have an automatic bias on my application.” 

Despite the twists and turns of abortion rights in Michigan over the last year, abortion-rights advocates are clear in that their advocacy is not finished

“We need to use whatever power we have left to protect people,” Mata said.

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