The 14th annual criminal justice symposium was held in Old Main Chapel on Sept. 8. The topic of discussion was abortion, with the event being titled, “Overturning Roe v. Wade: Making Abortion a Crime.”
Moderated by Shippensburg University criminal justice professor Stephanie Jirard, the event revolved around the future of abortion in the U.S. after the overturning of Roe v. Wade on June 24. Four SU professors from different departments spoke at the event, each discussing the implication of the Supreme Court ruling from their specific academic discipline.
Political science professor Lonce Bailey began the discussion noting that the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision (the decision that overturned Roe v. Wade) did not end abortion, it only ended abortion as a federal right. “[Abortion] is now largely a state issue,” Bailey said, noting that people’s votes on this issue now come down to governor and state legislature races. Bailey added that since the overturning of Roe, there have been many states reporting an uptick in newly-registered women voters.
Cris Rhodes, a professor of English, shared with attendees a literary perspective on abortion. Rhodes read an excerpt from Ernest Hemingway’s 1927 short story, “Hills Like White Elephants.” In the story, a male and female character are discussing an “operation,” which is inferred to be an abortion. Rhodes said that when the story was published, abortion was illegal in the U.S., but those that did occur were regularly done with “unsanitary household items.” In Hemingway’s story, the male character said to the female that it was a simple operation, but Rhodes noted that the likelihood of the abortion being performed safely in the story was slim.
From a sociological perspective, Professor Chad Kimmel discussed the controversial 2001 abortion crime hypothesis brought forth by economists Steven Levitt and John Donohue. The hypothesis argues that the drop in crime rate starting in 1990 can be attributed to the legalization of abortion in 1973 due to Roe v. Wade. The hypothesis states that “unwantedness” leads to high crime. “I don’t like the term ‘unwantedness’,” Kimmel said. “I was really working hard to try to come up with another term.” Kimmel also discussed the Nurse-Family partnership program, in which nurses enter the homes of low-income mothers to aid with newborn babies up to the age of two.
Social work professor Laura Masgalas talked about the foster care system and the potential strain put on it by the overturning of Roe. Masgalas noted that in Pennsylvania there are between 13,000 and 15,000 children in the foster care system. Masgalas also discussed the implication of Roe’s overturn on black women. “Black maternal health is a real crisis in this nation,” Masgalas said, adding that black women are more likely to die or have unexpected pregnancy outcomes than white women.
The symposium ended with a question-and-answer session with the audience.