Oregon’s public universities and private colleges react to Roe v. Wade reversal


Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Portland to protest a leaked draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court saying they would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, Tuesday, May 3, 2022.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff/OPB

Following the US Supreme Court ruling that abortion rights should be determined by each state, some universities and colleges in Oregon are assuring students and employees that their access to reproductive health services will not will not be affected.

The OPB contacted the two largest private universities in Oregon – George Fox University and the University of Portland, both of which are religiously affiliated. A spokesperson for George Fox said the university did not plan to publicly respond to the decision. UP did not provide a statement to the OPB after repeated requests.

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, determining that a person’s right to an abortion is not protected nationwide. The ruling overturned nearly 50 years of legal precedent set by Roe v. Wade.

A number of public universities and private colleges in Oregon sent emails to their respective campus communities over the past week following the Supreme Court action.

Some of the state’s public universities acknowledged the seriousness of the decision and its likely impacts on residents of campus communities, while remaining relatively neutral. The statements often urged members of the community to respect differing opinions and made it clear that the right to have an abortion is still intact in Oregon.

Rick Bailey, Jr., president of Southern Oregon University, called the court’s decision a “seismic shift” for reproductive rights in an email to SOU students and employees on Monday.

“Many members of our SOU family are gravely concerned about the effects of this decision, as well as its potential impact on other landmark decisions,” Bailey wrote.

He encouraged members of the campus community to share their feelings about the decision with respect, “rather than harmful actions or rhetoric.”

Further north on Interstate 5, University of Oregon President Michael Schill shared similar sentiments last Friday, the day the decision was announced.

“This decision is extremely distressing to many in our community who view reproductive rights and protections as fundamental to human rights,” Schill wrote. “It can also threaten other rights that many of us rely on. And, sadly, it is almost certain to fuel further divisions in our already polarized society.

A statement from officials at Western Oregon University in Monmouth this week also acknowledged that people may have a range of reactions to the court’s decision, while emphasizing that sharing different viewpoints is part of higher education. .

“We understand that individuals will have different moral, ethical or legal responses to these recent developments. We recognize that of any American institution, the marketplace of ideas is perhaps the most important on a college campus,” the university said. “Nevertheless, Western Oregon remains steadfast in its commitment to the freedom to shape your own destiny and the freedom to pursue your dreams.”

All of the universities that issued statements following the ruling stressed that access to abortion and other reproductive health care in Oregon remains unchanged.

“In 2017, Oregon codified abortion access in House Bill 3391, the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which requires private health insurance plans to Oregon to cover abortions with no out-of-pocket costs, including being covered by the Oregon Health Plan,” Oregon Institute Technology President Nagi Naganathan explained in an email to his campus community on Saturday. .

The private University of the Pacific at Forest Grove sent a similar message to its students and staff last week.

“Oregon law continues to protect an individual’s right to access abortion and other reproductive health services,” University of the Pacific new president Jenny Coyle wrote in his message. “The Supreme Court decision does not change this law.”

Statements before the court decision

Oregon’s largest public university, Oregon State University, released a statement early last week – ahead of the court action.

Acting OSU President Becky Johnson wrote that the university would approach the outcome of the court’s decision in a manner “consistent with its mission — contributing to learning through rigorous scholarship. , research-based evidence and facts, enabling discussion and providing community service.

Johnson focused on learning and engagement activities around the court ruling. She said the university plans to invite the OSU community to speak with faculty experts to learn more about the court’s actions and the issues involved.

“In historic times like this, institutions of higher education like OSU play an important role in providing research-based insights and enabling community conversation,” Johnson said. “We encourage you to engage in learning, ask questions and think critically about this important issue.”

Other colleges and universities in the state initially made statements when the Supreme Court’s action plans were released last month.

Reed College President Audrey Bilger spoke out strongly in favor of Roe v. Wade in a message sent to campus early last month.

“I strongly believe in the rights supported by Roe v. Wade; however, others on campus may disagree. I will express my point of view, but I cannot speak for all of Reed,” she wrote. “I can and will assert and protect the rights and privacy of the most vulnerable members of our community.”

Lewis & Clark vice president for student life and future university president Robin Holmes-Sullivan also wrote a message to campus regarding concerns following the initial leak in May.

“Lewis & Clark is committed to equality and personal autonomy, and to caring for and supporting all of our students, faculty, and staff,” Holmes-Sullivan wrote. In response to the leaked draft decision, Holmes-Sullivan called out “a potential erosion of our nation’s commitments to these shared values.”

A few Oregon universities — public and private — made no public statement about the leaked project or the decision itself as of Friday.

Along with George Fox University and the University of Portland, as of Thursday evening, Portland State University, Eastern Oregon University and Linfield University had not released any statements in response. to the decision.

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