Rider hosts expert panel to discuss next steps post-Roe

By Kaitlyn McCormick

Despite mild expectations for protests, Rider’s Gender and Sexuality Studies (GSS) program hosted a diverse panel of experts on Oct. 19 to discuss the implications of reproductive legislations affecting the country in “Talking About Roe.”

The panel, sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) and the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI), welcomed speakers who took turns answering questions posed by moderator and English professor Laurel Harris.

Though a Unity Day panel scheduled eight days earlier discussing Roe v. Wade and abortion access was canceled due in-part to concerns for protest, the Oct. 19 engagement went smoothly with no interruptions as students and faculty alike sat in on the event.

Senior music education major Grace Rykaczewski, founder and president of Rider’s chapter of anti- abortion group Students For Life America, told The Rider News that she had originally intended to host a protest for the event, but had to cancel due to scheduling conflicts.

GSS Program Director Erica Ryan explained that the idea for the panel came about when she and Harris were first processing their “shock” and “sadness” from the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, which overturned Roe v. Wade, a longstanding precedent establishing and protecting constitutional rights to abortion.

“We wanted to put something together for students because we thought students would feel similarly,” Ryan said.

She also detailed the thought behind selecting the four members who came to speak to and educate Rider students; “We wanted it to be activists, but we also thought it was really important to bring in a historical perspective. … And within the activism mix, we wanted it to be as representational as it could be in terms of different communities.”

The panel included Carol Watchler, community outreach coordinator from the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice, Saray Ramos, health justice coordinator for the N.J. Latino Action Network, Gillian Frank, a historian from Princeton’s Center for Culture, Society and Religion and Braeden Perdue, deputy director of digital communications from Planned Parenthood Action Fund N.J.

Multiple speakers stressed that abortion rights, queer rights and the rights of people of color are all intersected and work hand in hand with one another.

Junior film and television major Ashley Morales explained how the diversity on the panel caused her to think differently about the abortion conversation, especially Ramos’ comments.

Morales said she realized there is “so much more” she can contribute to her family and community. “It’s all intersectional,” she said.

Although abortion rights are currently protected in New Jersey, Perdue, who works closely with Rider’s chapter of Planned Parenthood Generation Action, explained that it’s “not an excuse … to be complacent about these issues.”

He also explained that restrictions in other states have already impacted N.J. Planned Parenthood clinics, namely through an increased number of out- of-state patients.

“We’re currently working on extending hours … hiring staff … making sure we never ever turn a patient away for any reason,” Perdue said.

One of the biggest points brought up on the panel was how important it is for students to speak up in the quickly approaching Nov. 8 congressional election.

Ramos said, “voting is a very important right that we have and a very important job that we have to do. … I can guarantee you that had Gov. Murphy not been in the position that he was when the [Dobbs] decision came out, this state would be looking a lot different than it is.”

Watchler urged audience members to “anoint [themselves] as someone who can really make a difference,” through not only voting but educating themselves on the matters at hand.

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