Student leaders, reproductive rights organizations demand action from UT in response to abortion restrictions

Claire Stevens, News Reporter

Leaders from legislative student organizations and student advocacy groups demanded action from UT in response to Texas’ abortion ban in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.

The demands, which were directed to University leadership and other stakeholders, include the expansion of sexual education and reproductive health resources offered by the University and protections for students seeking or advocating for abortion. Leaders from Student Government, the Senate of College Councils, the Graduate Student Assembly, Students for Planned Parenthood and other advocacy organizations under the name UT Coalition for Reproductive Justice and Rights signed the statement.

“We unequivocally support reproductive rights, justice, and autonomy for all,” the statement said. “The right to control our bodies and the ability to make healthcare decisions that should be private should not belong to any government or anyone other than ourselves. We stand in solidarity with all abortion-seekers affected by this decision.”

Several of the group’s demands focus on expanding campus resources, like creating comprehensive sexual education modules for incoming and current students as well as a resource guide from University Health Services that would provide information about where to receive reproductive healthcare. The statement also calls for the Counseling and Mental Health Center to provide services that address the ways abortion restrictions impact mental well-being.

“We really want to ensure that at this time … UT continues to, as (it has) in the past, have contraceptives accessible, and have that information accessible to students, to make sure that students are being informed about their reproductive healthcare and their own bodily autonomy,” said Leland Murphy, government senior and SG president.

The group also called for an end to mandatory attendance policies. Sameeha Rizvi, Senate vice president and one of the statement’s authors, said that while Title IX prevents discrimination for seeking or receiving an abortion, recent restrictions may make it harder to seek accommodations, like excused absences, for reproductive healthcare. Rizvi said that ending mandatory attendance policies would protect students’ health privacy. 

“It would also take away that requirement or that discomfort of having to share that information with people that you may not necessarily trust to share the information with, especially with the current legal implications,” said Rizvi, public health and social work senior.

The statement also called for the University to protect the first amendment rights of students advocating for reproductive justice and to allow them to distribute over-the-counter medications. In February, the Texas Visual Arts Collective and Students for Planned Parenthood were told they could not give away free Plan B, according to earlier reporting from The Daily Texan.

Other demands include University support for current projects, including an initiative to bring vending machines that would provide emergency contraception to campus and a proposed Austin City Council act that aims to decriminalize abortion.

The group shared the statement on social media and is collecting signatures of support from the UT community.

“I’m hoping that campus attitude and campus support about this is really strong and reaching,” said Nikita Kakkad, Plan II and biomedical engineering junior who is a member of Emergency Contraception for Every Campus at UT and helped write the statement. “I hope that students realize that the way that we’re going to get through these really, really restrictive harsh laws is supporting one another.”