Planned Parenthood National Campaign Director Sarah Standiford ‘97 on the overturning of Roe v. Wade

Standiford, a lifelong advocate for reproductive healthcare, spoke to The Student about what the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision means for millions of women

Almost immediately after graduating from Bates, Sarah Standiford ’97 began working as a reproductive justice advocate. First as an organizer at Planned Parenthood Northern New England and then as the national campaign’s director at Planned Parenthood Action Fund. 

On June 24 the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision protecting a woman’s right to have an abortion. In the days following, at least 11 states completely banned or heavily restricted abortion access. The result: more than 33 million women lost access to abortion services.

“Those consequences are going to most immediately affect those who’ve been disproportionately impacted by lack of access to health care for generations, including black, Latino, indigenous and people of color because of this country’s legacy of racism,” Standiford said.

According to Standiford abortion access is, “about having the freedom and determination to make your own decisions about, not only pregnancy or parenting, but your future. It’s about self determination and about control.”

She points out that “Even when we had [Roe v. Wade], abortion was not accessible to everybody. It’s always been the floor and not the ceiling.”

In the mid-1990s, Standiford travelled across the country to help a friend cross state lines to get an abortion while in college. Before getting an abortion, her friend had to face pro-life brochures and undergo a waiting period.

“I think my silver lining for the moment that we’re in is that we collectively are demanding access to abortion without stigma, without shame,” Standiford said. “And without any of the constraints that we culturally imposed prior to this moment. I think we’re at a cultural inflection point as we fight back.”

The consequences of this ruling are massive and will mean that nearly half of all women of reproductive age are unable to access abortions in their home state. The ruling also puts doctors, patients and supporters at risk of criminal prosecution in certain states. 

This ripple effect will also impact pro-choice states as they receive an influx of out-of-state abortion-seekers. In 1993, Maine’s legislature passed the Reproductive Privacy Act that ensures the right to abortion in the state. Despite this, Standiford emphasized the importance of remaining vigilant since the law is vulnerable to the political tide of Maine’s legislature. 

Filling out your entire ballot and going to the polls informed is critical according to Standiford. She suggests utilizing Planned Parenthood’s scorecard to check the voting records of congresspeople.

“80% of people in this country support [Roe v. Wade]. It’s a minority of politicians,” Standiford said. “It’s a minority of lawmakers who are working to roll back the clock. And I know that they’re not going to be successful because there are more of us, because we are organized and we’re here for the long term.”