Immediately after the passage of Indiana’s near-total abortion ban this month, many wondered about unforeseen consequences to health care and impacts on the state economy.
Ball State economist Michael Hicks, in an op-ed for the Star Press, suggested education was a significant sector that could also see ramifications from the new law – writing that there would be “far fewer out-of-state college students coming to Indiana.”
“It [the abortion ban] really hampers universities in their goal to bring people from around the world here to Indiana to study, to learn, to create new science and then to stay here to take jobs,” Hicks told WFYI more recently.
Indiana universities have largely stayed quiet about the new abortion restrictions. A spokesperson from the University of Notre Dame told WFYI that there was “nothing to add.”
In a statement, Purdue University said, "it is the university’s policy not to comment on social or political issues contended in the public arena.”
And Indiana University said it was “reviewing the new law to assess any potential impacts on our education or research missions.”
It is likely too soon for the new law to create a measurable impact on college admissions. Hicks, in his op-ed, wrote that the impact wouldn’t become visible until 2023.
A spokesperson for the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers told WFYI that it didn’t have any statistics on how abortion bans in certain states impacted student admissions, adding “it’s possible we’ll have data on this topic in the future.”
Purdue students respond
On the ground at universities, some students say it’s hard to know whether the ban would have changed their decision to attend Indiana schools – but it is likely to shape their decision to stay.
Haley Archer is a Purdue sophomore from Warsaw, Indiana who said she is “completely” pro-abortion rights.
“It definitely doesn’t make me want to stay in Indiana after I graduate, but I’m here now,” she said.
Archer said as an in-state student, she likely would have stayed here to get in-state tuition – regardless of whether the ban had already been in place.
“Purdue was always it for me,” she said. “I think I’d feel more comfortable because we have Illinois and Michigan around us if I were ever in that spot. I don’t know if I’d ever get an abortion myself, but I definitely support those who choose to do that… but it’s a big deal.”
Archer said it’s clear to her that Purdue leadership is going to stay away from commenting on the legislature’s abortion ban.
“Obviously I’d hope they’d be pro-choice, but with Mitch Daniels as president that’s probably not the case,” she said. “So them staying out of it and not saying anything is probably what I’d prefer… They’re never going to say their actual opinion.”
International students also say the decision to come to Indiana is a complicated one.
Ness Mehta is a second-year doctoral student in counseling psychology and an international student from India. She said as an international student, it took her a while to understand that the law would impact her.
“The thing that I’m kind of mad about is that on our tax forms I’m a non-resident alien, but when it comes to abortion – when it comes to the laws – I’m a resident,” she said. “It took me a couple of weeks to be able to process it, because one of the reasons I came to the U.S. is that it’s the land of the free… but I can’t say that anymore.”
Mehta said the new law is especially concerning to her because it impacts her area of study.
“What would happen if a client were to disclose in therapy that they had an abortion? What would a therapist do with this new law?” She asked.
According to Mehta, she didn’t have a lot of choices about where she could attend school, which means she likely would have attended Purdue even with a ban in place.
“But I can say after coming here, people ask me ‘Are you going to stay in the U.S. after your program is over or not?’ This decision has changed my answer,” she said.
“I don’t mind the U.S. before – I was like, it’s alright, there’s some stuff but I can live with it,” Mehta added. “But I can’t live with losing my bodily autonomy.”
In a statement, Purdue Student Government Press Secretary Evan Chrise told WFYI “we are watching the situation very closely and want to support all students at Purdue University.”
Chrise added that when it comes to the new abortion law impacting admissions, “we have not seen any indication of this happening.”
IU student government: 'parents are calling very pissed off'
Indiana University Student Government has taken stronger steps to support students following the state’s passage of the near-total abortion ban.
Earlier this month, IUSG announced it would cover the cost of emergency contraceptives for all IU-Bloomington students through the 2022-2023 school year.
Students will be able to pick up Plan B at the Student Health Center free of charge.
Student body president Kyle Seibert and vice president Bell Pastore said they’ve been hearing from students worried about how the new law will impact them.
“I know people that don’t want to stay here because of it,” Pastore said. “I know students that come from out of state, and you kind of have these thoughts like racing in the back of your head – ‘did I make a good decision and can I be safe going to this school?’”
Pastore said as an in-state student she might have looked elsewhere if the ban had passed while she was in high school.
“It’s a pretty real thought that I would have to look at other places as well and take that into consideration,” she said. “I feel like a lot of high schoolers now are having to talk about that, and people out of state, because we do have great schools here… but coming here I do think it [the abortion ban] really does put a dent in it for many, many people.”
As members of student government, Seibert said they are hearing concerns about the abortion ban not just from students but parents as well.
“Parents are calling very pissed off, very angry, saying ‘What are we doing about this? My kid can’t go here, I don’t want my kid to feel like they can’t make a mistake in the state without being punished in that way,’” he said. “I hear that all the time – that it’s really an issue where people are regretting their choice of coming to the state of Indiana because of this.”
Both Pastore and Seibert said they are trying to focus on what they can do to help other students at this time.
“It’s probably not reasonable to think I can wave a wand and re-establish Roe,” Seibert said. “Doing things like programs and providing emergency contraceptives to students… that’s what we’re doing.”
Pastore, a public management and epidemiology major, said she’s always thinking about public health and policy and has even thought about running for office in Indiana.
“Like I want to show someone that you can be in a very red state and hold true to what you believe in,” she said. “Sometimes with the legislature and the bills being passed… it can kind of make you feel like maybe I should go somewhere else. But then it’s grounding to see other people who care about it here too. It makes you feel like it’s worth fighting for.”
Contact WBAA reporter Benjamin Thorp at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @sad_radio_lad.