Chancellor Carol Christ: Roe ruling is a major setback for women

Chancellor Carol Christ sent the following message to the campus community on Friday:

Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to effectively overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision which legalized abortion, represents, for me, a devastating setback for American women, a turning back of the clock to a time when women were not at liberty to control their bodies or their lives. I write today to share my personal opinion and reaction. While our university, as an institution, must maintain neutrality I am compelled by the magnitude and meaning of today’s decision on American women and their families to share my own perspectives.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ smiles at the camera

“As the first female chancellor of the top public university in the world, I am writing to you today because today’s decision by the Supreme Court is profoundly personal, alarming and distressing,” UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ wrote in a message to the campus community. (UC Berkeley photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

I belong to a generation of women who came of age when birth control was legalized and when abortion was decriminalized. The freedom I have enjoyed to leave home after high school, chase my educational dreams, plan my family, and pursue a career was possible because of the rights enshrined in the Roe v. Wade decision that gave women full liberty and, effectively, a new and rightful place in society. We became inventors, doctors, teachers, lawyers, scientists, scholars, and more.

As the first female chancellor of the top public university in the world, I am writing to you today because today’s decision by the Supreme Court is profoundly personal, alarming, and distressing. It’s unimaginable to me that the freedoms enjoyed by a generation of women will not be shared by my granddaughters. Or, moreover, by our students, staff and faculty, all of whom deserve the same right to self determination that I and so many others have enjoyed.

Furthermore, the restrictions to abortion rights that will soon become law in dozens of states will disproportionately impact poor women and those from underrepresented communities. The consequences to families and communities are sure to be far-reaching and dire. So, too, are there potential consequences for our right to marry who we wish, and other legal protections that are based on the idea that we all have a right to agency over our lives and bodies.

That said, I have deep respect for those for whom opposition to abortion is a matter of faith, as a function of their beliefs as to when life begins. I believe they have every right to live their own lives in accordance with their values, and the dictates of those beliefs. I do not, however, believe that any of us should have the right to forcefully impose our values on those who do not share them. I am concerned about the extent to which today’s decision will only serve to further fracture our society.

Here at Berkeley, we, through our committed University Health Services providers, will continue to offer our patients a full range of high quality reproductive health care services delivered with the utmost care and compassion, including those who may not identify as women. Moreover, I am heartened by the commitment of our governor and the majority of our elected officials in California to preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose when and whether to have children.

In light of today’s court ruling, we must recommit to our strong tradition of social justice at Berkeley. My fears are eased knowing that in our classrooms and in other spaces across our campus, we are preparing the next generation of leaders to advocate for the most vulnerable among us by championing fairness, equity and equality in creating a world in which all can thrive. I pledge to work alongside each of you to make this so.

Here is a message sent earlier today from UC President Michael Drake on the subject.