After Dobbs, UNCW Seahawks are ready to flock to the polls

Morgan Greene, Staff Writer

When the Supreme Court repealed the long-standing abortion rights established by Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey at the end of June 2022 in Dobbs v. Jackson, the discussion around abortion caught the attention of the country.

Now, the legality of abortion is up to each state to determine for themselves, and as the midterms approach, students across the political spectrum at UNCW are determined to make their voices heard at the ballot box.

“I think that Dobbs did definitely get me more involved than I was planning to be,” said senior Thomas McCallister. “I was definitely going to vote, but I don’t know how much I would’ve been out there canvassing and campaigning for Democrats like I am now.”

McCallister is the president of the UNCW Democrats, a club that might not still exist on campus if it wasn’t for the Dobbs decision.

“Before Dobbs, the club disbanded,” says McCallister. “We actually started it up this year again, and we’ve got a lot of members.”

McCallister was motivated by Dobbs and his personal “passion for politics” to relaunch UNCW Democrats and lead club members in political activism on and off campus. So far, the club has been holding voter registration events for students of all political affiliations, and they hope to begin “phone banking” as well, which would entail calling registered voters to encourage them to vote in November.

“We’re going to go and do voter registration down here, in Fisher [University Union],”  McCallister said. “We had another voter registration event about two weeks ago…and then on Saturday, we’re doing a canvassing event for Democrats. We’re going to go knocking on doors.”

On the other side of the political spectrum, sophomore Benjamin Cederberg has been advocating for the pro-life cause as president of the new Students for Life club at UNCW.

“I started the Students for Life chapter here before Dobbs,” said Cederberg. “I just felt like it was what we needed on campus, because my freshman year I looked for an SFL chapter and didn’t find one…I felt like we had to do something to speak up and make a difference, so I started it.”

Cheri Beasley is the main Democratic candidate for the North Carolina Senate election. (PBS)

So far, Cederberg has used the club to establish Hawk’s Harvest, a baby supply drive partnered with UNCW’s Catholic Campus Ministry to provide diapers, baby wipes and other supplies for mothers in need. He says Dobbs has impacted the club’s focus on both charity outreach and local politics.

“We want to put more of a focus on elections because, you know, Republicans can do something about abortion,”  Cederberg explained. “We want to put more pro-life politicians in power…and charity stuff, trying to step up Hawk’s Harvest, too.”

Despite how charged the topic of abortion is now, Cederberg says he has not felt an increase in tension between pro-choice and pro-life students on campus since the Dobbs decision.

“When we do tabling, it’s actually been going pretty good,” said Cederberg. “We’ve had pretty good conversations and everything…[people] willing to talk.”

In the opinion of student body president Hannah Horowitz, however, tensions seem to be on the rise.

“For sure there’s been a higher tension,” said Horowitz. “I’ll have students who are more liberal come to me and be like, ‘oh, so-and-so is tabling, what should we do about that?’ I’m like, ‘what do you mean, what should we do about that?’ Every student organization has the right to table. If you’re following university guidelines, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to table.”

Horowitz says her stance on abortion isn’t particularly strong, but she was surprised by the Dobbs decision.

“I didn’t think that I would see that happen in my generation,” says Horowitz. “I come from a different kind of experience because I was in foster care…people would think I immediately think one way or the other…but my immediate reaction was shock because I just didn’t think that would happen.”

“Shock” seems to be the general reaction of students on both sides of the political spectrum.

“I did not expect that something like that could happen, especially the way the world has been going,” said conservative student Hailey Hartley. “I thought they were going to make abortion more present, not less…Shocking.”

Horowitz believes the general reaction of the student body has been “anger” and “uncertainty” regarding the Dobbs decision. In response, she says the Association of Student Governments provided links to various abortion resources on social media.

Ted Budd is the main Republican candidate for the North Carolina Senate election. (Wikimedia)

“A lot of what we’ve been trying to do is…resources for people who need it,” said Horowitz, “as opposed to taking a stronger stance, or saying people who believe one way or the other are wrong…Everybody is entitled to their own belief system, but at the end of the day…it’s important for me to know that people do have a choice.”

While many UNCW students were already planning to vote in the midterm election, the possibilities opened by Dobbs have certainly added weight to their convictions.

“Now that Roe v. Wade is gone, Republicans don’t really have an excuse for not passing pro-life legislation and everything,” says Cederberg. “It definitely makes a lot more of a difference because that’s on the table now, that they can do that.”

“I was always going to vote,” said Hartley. “I want to keep people in office that’s going to keep that kind of thing in place…We have a little bit of a grip now where we didn’t before, and…it could easily go back, and maybe be worse than Roe was.”

On the other end, McCallister is driven to vote by his belief that the Dobbs ruling was an unconstitutional “political maneuver.”

“It just seemed like the Court had finally gotten a pro-life majority,” explained McCallister. “They were now acting upon that in a way that went against previous decisions, which goes against stare decisis, which is where the Court basically shouldn’t go back and overturn previous decisions because they’ve been ruled constitutional or unconstitutional…It’s already been decided.”

UNCW’s student body president, on the other hand, is motivated by her experience as a public health major and her concern for women experiencing unplanned pregnancies.

“I am still hoping that it will remain a choice in North Carolina,” said Horowitz regarding the state’s abortion laws. “I am very much a person who believes that mothers, specifically, should get to choose when they become a mother…so obviously as someone who identifies as pro-choice, I’m hoping that it will stay legal in North Carolina, but with restrictions that make sense.”

Whatever the outcome of the 2022 midterm elections, one thing is for certain: both pro-life and pro-choice students at UNCW are determined to play an active role in the fight over abortion legality in North Carolina, and their activism isn’t likely to stop at midterms.