Be an Outlier for Change   


Next week marks almost five months since the Supreme Court handed down their decision in Dobbs versus Jackson Women’s Health, overturning the constitutional protection for abortion enshrined by Roe v Wade in 1973. Although the past fifteen years have seen an incredibly successful assault on reproductive rights and access to essential health care for pregnancy, the Dobbs decision led to the enactment of trigger bans in thirteen states, with an additional thirteen states having restrictive or very restrictive laws that are anticipated to lead to bans in the near future. In the first 100 days post-Dobbs, much has been written about the legal climate, how individuals and families have been affected and the legislative victories on both sides of the debate. One of the most striking things I’ve read, however, was a policy analysis by the Guttmacher Institute classifying the US as a global outlier on abortion rights. While the US has often taken pride in US “exceptionalism,” in this case, the Dobbs decision and the resultant legislative changes, put the US on the wrong side of progress. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, 52 countries changed their laws on abortion in the past twenty-five years, with only 2 increasing restrictions.


As the semester reaches its busy midpoint, I’ve been reflecting on what else it could mean to be an outlier. Duke students are almost by definition outliers—being admitted reflects hard work and unique talents, and being a student here opens the doors to experiences and privilege that much of the country and world does not have access to. How can students embody their identity as outliers to make a difference? Much of the faculty grew up in a generation in which our rights were expanded or protected and now find ourselves in the shocking place of losing what have been considered essential freedoms for most of our lives. It is now incumbent upon all of us to speak up and engage our friends, our families, and our communities. This month is a great time to do that, as we approach an election that can determine the direction that many states will take in the upcoming years.  Duke students can be anything they set their minds and talents to; now is time to be outliers for change.

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