How 6 prominent university presidents, on both sides, reacted to Roe v Wade ruling

The responses of some of higher ed's top leaders to the Supreme Court decision exemplify the split that exists across the nation.
By: | June 27, 2022
Harrison Mitchell/Unsplash

Last Friday’s decision by the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and the federal right to abortion led to protests in cities across the U.S. and ignited reactions from leaders on both sides of the judgment.

While students were heavily involved in demonstrations in major cities, college campuses largely remained quiet, having broken for the summer. However, that didn’t stop some institutions of higher education from issuing statements on the high court’s ruling. They included broad remarks from universities on the 6-3 verdict, as well as secondary administrators and campus health-care officials issuing campus-directed emails. Very few presidents themselves made public statements.

Some who did release memos were careful with their words. “We know that abortion remains a highly contentious issue that directly affects our students,” University of Wisconsin president Jay Rothman said in a statement. “We are reviewing the U.S. Supreme Court decision to determine what impact it may have on our universities. Like others, we will monitor the legal process surrounding this issue and will adhere to the law as it continues to evolve.”

A few others, though, were very clear in their stances on the abortion issue, from leaders representing religious institutions to those that might be considered more liberal or open to a woman’s right to choose. Here is what they had to say:

Rev. John Jenkins, University of Notre Dame: As a Catholic university, Notre Dame is committed to the sanctity of all human life, and I have for many years joined with others in advocating for the protection of unborn life. We acknowledge the divisions among people of goodwill on the question of abortion, and the controversy that has endured in our nation for the past fifty years. I hope that today’s Supreme Court decision, which returns the question of abortion to voters and their elected representatives, will provide an occasion for sober deliberation and respectful dialogue. We must work with those who share our views, and particularly with those who don’t, as we examine the profound and complex moral, legal and social questions involved. We urge everyone to bring to these discussions a generous spirit and, above all, strive to establish laws, policies and programs that ensure equality for women and support for mothers and their children.


More from UB: Republican Senator draws jeers at Wyoming commencement after comment on gender


Michael Drake, University of California: For nearly 50 years, people in the United States have had the right to make private, informed choices about their health care and their futures. I am gravely concerned that today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision removes that right and will endanger lives across the country. This decision overturns decades of legal precedent and could pave the way for other fundamental rights to be removed. The Court’s decision is antithetical to the University of California’s mission and values. We strongly support allowing individuals to access evidence-based health-care services and to make decisions about their own care in consultation with their medical team. Despite this decision by the Court, we will continue to provide the full range of health care options possible in California, including reproductive health services, and to steadfastly advocate for the needs of our patients, students, staff, and the communities we serve. We will also continue to offer comprehensive education and training to the next generation of health-care providers and to conduct life-saving research to the fullest extent possible.

Jerry Prevo, Liberty University: Today, on behalf of Liberty University, I want to express our gratitude to Almighty God for the landmark decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization handed down by the Supreme Court of the United States. While this does not effectively end abortion in America, it is a monumental step in the direction of protecting life and placing that decision squarely in the hands of the American people. For nearly 50 years, Liberty University students, faculty, and staff have prayed, volunteered, and advocated for the life of mothers and their unborn babies. The Liberty student body has led the way and marched year after year, prayed on the steps of the Supreme Court, and committed their lives to pro-life causes. As Liberty University president, I am proud that we are now officially training the first Post Roe-v-Wade generation of leaders who will be Champions for Christ to continue to advocate for the life of mothers and their unborn babies.”

Mary Sue Coleman, University of Michigan: Today’s Supreme Court ruling on the right to an abortion will affect many on our campus and beyond. I strongly support access to abortion services, and I will do everything in my power as president to ensure we continue to provide this critically important care. Our campus is more than half women; we care about our own communities as well as those we serve through clinical care and education. I am deeply concerned about how prohibiting abortion would affect U-M’s medical teaching, our research, and our service to communities in need.

Michael Schill, University of Oregon: This ruling is extremely distressing for many members of our community who see reproductive rights and protections as central to human rights. It also may threaten other rights that many of us have come to rely upon. And, unfortunately, It is almost certain to fuel further division in our already polarized society. Our role as a public research university is to encourage discussion, debate, understanding, and informed participation in our political system. I am committed to ensuring the University of Oregon stays true to its mission of education, research, and service to society to strengthen our democracy and advance our world. , I urge members of our community to educate yourselves on the issues, listen with empathy, share your perspectives, get involved, and exercise your right to vote. Toward that end this summer and fall we will seek to find opportunities for our faculty experts to engage the broader community on the implications of today’s decision.