Like most of America, the Lab has been grappling with the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
It affects us — not only as a national nonprofit with employees working remotely across the country — but it also affects the learners we serve.
Let’s be clear what the issue is.
First, we need to be clear as to what Roe accomplished and what overturning it has done.
Whatever your views on reproductive choices, Roe had enabled those choices to be made by individuals and their families. Overturning Roe has now put state governments in charge of these decisions. Some state governments empower the individual with choice, while others restrict and legislate them.
As we see in our work, systems that are not designed to empower the individual have an inequitable impact. Those who have economic and social power can craft their own experiences; those without adequate resources are left at the mercy of systems that work against their interests — such as going to school to get a better job and support their family.
So, how do we move forward?
We remind ourselves of our core values:
We are learner-driven.
The heart of the Lab’s work is to design for and with new majority learners. And so we must center these learners as we move forward in an America that no longer guarantees reproductive rights. Access to safe reproductive healthcare and services and options has a direct impact on economic opportunity and mobility — and a lack of access most acutely impacts low-income women and women of color.
Just like our design process, we must start from a place of empathy and understanding. We ask about needs and goals, trying to design communities that promote growth, agency, and belonging for all people, especially those who have been underinvested in and face barriers to opportunity.
Here are just three voices of the hundreds of learners we’ve interviewed during our Single Moms Success Design Challenge:
+ “I have so many other situations to deal with that are way bigger than school. But in order for me to get where I want to go, this has to be my starting point.”
+ “It’s hard to figure out how to not always feel alone or just to deal with things when it gets difficult because I don’t have any help. It’s just my child and me. Sometimes I think, ‘Am I crazy? Is it me? Why is this whole thing not working? Why?’ “
+ “Right now just about everything could break me down.”
What does empathy look like for your institution and your community? How might we center learners who are too often invisible?
We believe education is the most important lever for economic mobility … and economic mobility can break the cycle of poverty.
New majority learners — many of whom are of reproductive age — are trying to better their lives and the lives of their families. Their reproductive choices significantly impact their options. Intentionally or not, the Supreme Court’s decision and state laws limiting their rights will set this group back. Our tangled systems will be even more challenging for these learners to navigate.
The reversal of Roe v. Wade could also deepen the existing health inequities for indigenous and rural communities – where access to safe reproductive options is already a challenge, and where pregnant people struggle to find perinatal care close to their homes.
This court decision blocks economic mobility – not only for people who are or could become pregnant, but for the families and communities who depend on them.
We are biased toward action.
The Lab will continue to navigate the unfolding impacts of this decision in the way we approach all challenges: Through collaboration, partnership, and community.
As an employer, we are seeking out thoughtful responses to support our employees and our stakeholders. One example is JFF’s call to action, Employers: Act Now to Preserve Abortion Access—It’s an Economic Issue and a Business Issue, and their Impact Employer Model for guidance on how to meet the needs of employees in these uncertain times.
We will continue to support our institutional partners. Most of them are community colleges, which already struggle to serve learners facing the highest systemic and environmental barriers to education and work. Their efforts just got more difficult.
The Lab is proud to use human-centered design to better understand America’s workforce problems — and to design solutions that promote prosperity and economic mobility, especially those for whom current systems were not well designed. This Supreme Court ruling may fracture our United States, but we won’t let it stop us.
We’re all in this together.