State Abortion Laws Are a Deciding Factor for Students One Year Post-Roe, IWPR Poll Reveals

Harvard University students chant while rallying in Harvard Yard on May 4, 2022, in Cambridge, Mass., to defend abortion rights and protest against a leaked draft opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court that would overturn Roe v. Wade. (Erin Clark / The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Almost one year after the Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade, state laws banning abortion are becoming a factor for students and parents in the Northeast considering an out-of-state college education, according to a new poll commissioned by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and conducted by Morning Consult.

Conducted in April among 501 parents and 500 students, the poll included Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Approximately 45 percent of students in the region choose to attend college out-of-state, facing the possibility of living in a state without legal access to abortion, a liberty they have had access to their whole lives.

General poll findings indicated:

  • The majority of student respondents (76 percent) said they prefer to go to college in a state where abortion is both legal and accessible, and all (100 percent) financially contributing parents agreed.
  • When asked which factors were most important when choosing a college or university, 63 percent of students and 52 percent of parents indicated that access to reproductive healthcare was extremely important.
  • Access to reproductive healthcare in-state is crucial, especially for students (55 percent) who said they cannot afford to travel out of state for abortion care.

A major deciding factor when choosing a college—above cost and ranking for some—is the school’s values.

  • Ninety-five percent of parents and 91 percent of students asserted that school values were an extremely important aspect.
  • Sixty-seven percent of parents and 71 percent of students take state social policies into account when choosing where to attend college since schools ultimately have to abide by state law.
  • Parent respondents said they do not want to support (77 percent) or put their money (75 percent) into a state that bans abortion.

In a post-Roe future, 78 percent of parents and 85 percent of students said they are concerned about the future of access to reproductive healthcare in the U.S. A lack of access to reproductive healthcare is one of many things that reflects not only the school’s values but also their mission. Students ask themselves: What other freedoms will be denied? 

When beginning their adult lives, students look forward the autonomy of mind and body a collegiate safe space brings—where their values can align with the school’s mission. Colleges and universities that do not stand against extreme state legislation on behalf of their students, risk a major drop in enrollment rates. 

Up next:

U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.


Val Diez Canseco is a Ms. editorial intern and a sophomore at Tulane University studying international relations and English. She is passionate about reproductive rights and health access, political frameworks in the Global South, and legal processes and systems. You can follow more of her work here.