Pitt’s student organizations adapt to a post-Roe country

By Kiera Ledermann, Senior Staff Writer

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, Samsher Sidhu, a marshal of the engineering fraternity Theta Tau, knew he needed to take action. 

Sidhu organized a bake sale and Olivia Porchello, senior bioengineering major and President of Pitt’s Society of Women Engineers, created a “bingo board” to collect donations on social media with the help of the Pitt Outdoors Club, Zeta Beta Tau and Theta Phi. Ultimately, the clubs raised more than $1,000, which they split between Planned Parenthood of Western PA, the Western PA Fund for Choice and the Women’s Law Project. They chose local organizations due to Pittsburgh’s potential as a “hotspot for reproductive care needs.”

“I was seeing red, extremely angry.” Sidhu, a senior computer engineering major, said. “I care about my friends more than anything else in the world, and the fact that there are people who I’m very close with who don’t have autonomy over their bodies enrages me.”

As students return to Pitt this fall in a “post-Roe” America, some student organizations are planning to fight for reproductive rights, while others are working to limit abortion access in Pennsylvania. A spokesperson for the University said Student Affairs will release a “comprehensive list” of available health and wellness resources this week as a response to the decision. 

“Student Affairs is committed to meeting our students’ needs with compassion while continuing to provide excellent care, services, resources and programs to support their well-being,” the spokesperson said. “We recognize that members of our student body may be experiencing a wide range of feelings in response to this ruling.”

Even though Sidhu said the bake sale was a success, he believes the fight is far from over, and encourages others to take action.

“This is barely the first step — we are nowhere near done. It’s going to take a lot of time, effort and money,” Sidhu said. “I know that it seems like an insurmountable task, and it seems like it can at times be impossible to be just a normal person or a small group of friends, but it’s people like this and small groups like this that start the grassroots that enable change.”

Noah Baker, the internal events coordinator for Planned Parenthood Generation Action, said the decision prompted PPGA to collaborate with other student organizations to protect the right to choose. He said the club has taken a “large step” in directing efforts for this semester into voter registration and voter education.

“Now’s the time that we have to vote, because access to safe abortion in Pennsylvania is going to be on the ballot in November, and we need to make sure that we keep safe abortion accessible in our state,” Baker said. “We already have partnerships in the works with other clubs across campus, coming to voter registrations, voter education, having a big focus of our meetings being on that.”

Baker said although the ruling did not come as a shock, the club’s work “definitely feels more urgent” due to its implications for Americans with uteruses. 

“We were devastated it’s not the big triumph or the ‘end of abortion’ that people call it, it’s just the end of safe abortion and access to safe abortion,” Baker said. “It’s going to affect the lives of people with uteruses all across America — but disproportionately, those in minority groups — and it’s going to have really devastating effects.” 

However, not all clubs were “devastated” by the Supreme Court decision. Domenic Colangelo, the vice president of Choose Life @ Pitt, said the anti-abortion organization was “excited” about the decision.

“Obviously, as a pro-life group, we are excited that nine months from the Dobbs decision, there will be children who are alive and with us today who wouldn’t have if that legislation wasn’t passed,” Colangelo, a sophomore civil engineering major, said. “But also we’re excited that’s happening through good law, and not just judicial overreach.”

Colangelo said the club will continue their work with local pregnancy assistance centers such as Genesis of Pittsburgh, Sojourner House and Birthright to “help and interact and empower these women who are pregnant to really embrace their pregnancies with strength.”

Colangelo added that the fight against abortion is not over, and described the decision as “really just the beginning” of the developing legal situation surrounding abortion.

“We’re really happy that [the power to determine abortion policy decisions] has been returned to the states so that the population can begin to work out what it is we feel about human life and dignity,” Colangelo said.