‘Health care is a human right, that is why we have to fight’: Students hold rally at UT Tower on International Women’s Day for reproductive rights

Ren Leija, General News Reporter

The Austin chapter of Students for a Democratic Society gathered in front of the UT Tower to rally for reproductive rights on March 8, for International Women’s Day.

Students for a Democratic Society is a progressive student-activist organization founded in 1959 that has expanded to organizing rallies, protests, educative events and creating safe spaces for students.

“International Women’s Day applies to a lot of things,” said SDS officer Ashley Awad. “It’s access to health care, access to gender-affirming care. It has a lot of things encompassing it and that’s what inspired us.”

Members stood on the Tower’s steps, with signs in hand reading “Gender-Affirming Care Now,” and “Make Abortion Safe and Legal,” to focus on the fight for women’s and reproductive justice, after Roe v. Wade was overturned last year. 

Jake Holtzman, SDS president and graduate music student, said people need to continue organizing and showing up to fight for women’s rights to enact any long-term change.

With chants of “Abortion is health care,” and “Health care is a human right,” people at the rally demanded the reversal of the heartbeat bill, menstrual equity on campus and better resources for students with periods who can become pregnant. Speakers said that the University should invest further in resources for students instead of student-run organizations being the ones who take charge of providing them. 

Pritika Paramasivam, one of the co-founding organizers of the Texas Menstrual Equity Coalition, which advocates for better menstrual equity, said that administration managing these options could open avenues for students that were previously unavailable.

“It would be very critical to be able to direct students who might be needing those services in certain ways, provide funding to travel out of state and do all of these things that are really impactful,” said Paramasivam, a health and society senior.

Along with TXMEC, the Women’s Resource Agency is a committee under student government that advocating for “all gender-marginalized people” at the University by planning initiatives and events centering their needs and amplifying their voices.

As a member, agency co-director Rodriguez said she had worked closely with the Queer and Trans Student Alliance to distribute pregnancy tests and period products in campus bathrooms. However, she said the UT administration has made the initiative challenging.

“(People who can get pregnant or have periods) are more than just a vessel for childbirth,” Rodriguez, an English and speech, language and hearing sciences junior, said. “We are human beings with other hopes and dreams that may not involve being pregnant at that point in time. Resources like abortions and contraceptives can be life-saving.”

SDS plans on having future events and rallies for reproductive justice. Holtzman, Awad and other speakers at the rally said they hope to spread awareness about issues surrounding women’s rights and reproductive justice at the University by having students listen to stories and messages, Holtzman said.