By Kathleen Burns, Guest Writer
On June 24, the Supreme Court made the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, ending federal protection of abortion rights leaving the personal choice of carrying a fetus to birth up to state governments.
My first reaction was very small — shock made it impossible to process the events. I’ve known depression for most of my life without knowing what it was and my body’s response was to turn off my capability to feel anything.
As I went throughout my day at my job nannying, I could feel myself grow more and more lethargic. When I went to babysit later that day, I put the kids down for bed and was finally left alone with my thoughts. I quickly spiraled from being disconnected to a deep depression, crying until I couldn’t feel anything again.
I couldn’t stop thinking, as a person with my resources, how those in more vulnerable positions must feel. I have never had to deal with making the heavy decision of carrying a fetus to term or not, the possibility of pregnancy and the fear that comes with not knowing your options. That night, I cried with my close friends for a few hours until we all felt numb. We tried to take the night back for ourselves by playing card games and Just Dance, but something was missing.
Since the Dobbs decision, overturning Roe, life has continued to feel empty in spaces I used to feel most comfortable I’ve felt a sense of fear and hopelessness, one of these spaces being my own campus.
On Oct. 24 just four months after the Dobbs decision, I walked into my campus job in the GSC. Long hard weeks of the current semester left me with feelings of burnout, depression, and anxiety. The GSC desk, however, has always been a welcoming environment to me. I have worked there since my first week of my first year and have formed a small community with my co-workers and faculty.
That day, as I sat completing some assignments, the campus pro-life organization began to set up an event directly next to the desk. The organization began hanging up a large bright red banner completely covering the wall beside me. In bold lettering, it said, “Abortion is not a human right.” I could feel my body remembering the same day four months ago. I began to shake, holding back tears I asked my manager for help. She offered me validation, understanding the complexity of the issue, and let me leave my shift early.
Soon after leaving, I checked Campus Groups and saw that the event was labeled as a “discussion.” I felt confused — what kind of open discussion begins with a statement that completely disregards the arguments of the other side?
The event was not designed to foster a welcoming environment full of educational discourse. Instead, it was a hostile statement of who has the power to speak on campus.
I let myself cry for a short while, remembering the people whose lives were and will be forever changed by the overturn.
Thinking about the injustice that Xavier has not addressed or offered any sympathy on the rest of the day I felt numb and inattentive. I went to class, but I focused on taking deep breaths; not engaging in the material.
It felt unfair to me. I got up with the intention of working hard in my classes and absorbing material as well as social interaction. Campus was not supposed to be a trigger for me, but I found myself reliving feelings of despair.
The university should not allow for public safe spaces to become areas of contention, and the students must be granted the ability to form a pro-choice club in order to balance perspectives on campus and keep safe spaces available.
I share this story not for pity or to complain about my mental health issues. I share this story because I know that there are many others who feel this way. The American Psychiatric Association has released many statements on the effects the Dobbs decision has on the public mental health, saying that it has jeopardized the mental health of millions.
Xavier has prided itself on its mental health resources for students on campus. It advertises that it is a university that cares about its student’s well-being. And yet, there is no safe space on campus for me and my peers to share our grief. Even the student union has become a place of hostility, the red anti-abortion signs further silencing the voices of students who are already being ignored.
Xavier’s response (or lack thereof) to the Dobbs decision tells me that this is not a school that want to hear its students voices or meet their needs but an institution that tolerates censorship and disregards their students’ well being.