Four local academics spoke with PublicSource about the impacts a reversal of Roe v. Wade would have in Pennsylvania and where the current moment fits in with the history of social change.

How do you feel in light of the recent news about Roe?

“I feel like my country thinks of me as less of a person at this point, and it’s not a great feeling, especially as someone who, you know, became a political scientist out of really a sense of patriotism…” —Jennie Sweet-Cushman, an associate professor of political science at Chatham University

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How could the overturning of Roe impact people of marginalized identities?

“Poor and working class women, they will not be able to just purchase a plane ticket and go to the nearest state to get an abortion … As we’ve seen in so many areas, it will have a disproportionate impact.” —Robin Brooks, assistant professor of Africana Studies at the University of Pittsburgh

What concern does this pose in Pennsylvania?

“We’re among the worst in the nation concerning the death rate and the health of Black women giving birth to children. So then, if we start already at the bottom, and then we try to eliminate access to different types of health care, including abortion, you know, I see that as making things in Pennsylvania even worse.” —Brooks 

How does concrete social change happen?

“Concrete social change happens when people get active and make a difference, when they get out in the streets … Social change is possible; it is never permanent. There is no such thing as a progression of history. History never moves in a constantly progressive model. It always changes and needs attention.” —Laura Lovett, associate professor in Pitt’s Department of History

“I teach queer theory … I think it’s easy to neglect the queer theory side, or like the imagining, the exploding [of systems of power], and social change comes out of that as well … There is this need for, obviously, political logistics, getting elected officials into office, grassroots campaigning, but also there’s this need for imagining, exploding.” —Allie Reznik, assistant professor of humanities at Chatham University

What’s at stake?

“The dignity of persons who are pregnant and do not want to be. The dignity of the children that will be born of someone who couldn’t support them. The dignity of, ultimately, if this were to impact gay marriage, all of these other laws that protect different people, their dignity is at stake, and dignity has everything to do with financial viability, emotional viability, physical viability.” —Reznik

“I really do believe that people’s lives are at stake, like literally, physically, mentally, emotionally, even spiritually.” —Brooks

“​​What’s at stake here is whether or not women or people with uteruses are fully recognized as U.S. citizens, with the guarantees of the rights of U.S. citizens.” —Lovett

Emma Folts covers higher education at PublicSource, in partnership with Open Campus. She can be reached at

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Emma is a higher education reporter for PublicSource. In her role, she collaborates with Open Campus, a nonprofit newsroom focused on strengthening higher education coverage in local communities. Emma...