Picture this: The year is 1969 and Norma McCorvey has just found herself pregnant with her third child – an unwanted one. McCorvey lived in Texas, where abortions were not legalized other than to save the mother’s life. Otherwise healthy McCorvey wanted an abortion, but instead, she was legally responsible to carry her pregnancy to term. She took up the name Jane Roe to conceal her identity and her two lawyers, Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, filed a lawsuit against Henry Wade, the local district attorney. The lawsuit was filed on the premise that Texas’ abortion laws were unconstitutional. The court ruled in favor of Roe, which was appealed to the Supreme Court. On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of Roe as well. This granted access to abortions for all women under federal law.
However, on June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court determined that women no longer have the constitutional right to terminate their pregnancies. Although many people think this is far removed because New Jersey is a pro-choice state, many towns lack resources such as planned parenthood or adequate sexual education. Many pregnancies result from misinformation as a result of inadequate sex education and resources in their area.
In Ridgewood High School, we have many health classes to keep our students informed. The high school has a three-tier model of student support. Every student is entitled to the support of their grade advisors, guidance counselors, school nurses, and crisis intervention counselors. The district also provides in-district therapeutic support.
We are also very fortunate because in our area we are surrounded by personal care structures. Lighthouse, a pregnancy resource center that guides expectant parents through their pregnancy and into early parenthood, has locations nearby. Similarly, we are located close to Planned Parenthood which offers abortion and health care.
Despite this, there can be a plethora of complications in utilizing these resources such as lack of transportation, secrecy, and fear. Since the school has no obligation to notify parents, it is surprising that the school itself does not have more resources. Creating a safe environment for students facing these issues who might not have a support system is critical because it will give them a comfortable space to come forward. Furthermore, students might not have familial relationships or a bonded partnership to seek support through.
On the one hand, school is a very stressful place and is about the cold hard facts of learning. This is especially prominent in a district like Ridgewood, where academics are a top priority. The flip side of this is that the majority of a student’s time is spent at school and most students in Ridgewood are accustomed to having networks for help. This side of school life seems like a void for a student in search of guidance and support in an open-minded setting. The school should not just be about structured sexual education courses but should expand upon that and create an emotional support system. Sexual health is not just about the facts that we receive, but also about helping someone at the times that they are struggling.
Graphic: Vivian Yuan