University of Pennsylvania Students Take a Stand!

19 Feb 2019 2:48 PM | Anonymous

UPenn students publish letter calling out abortion myths and access issues in aftermath of 2019 State of the Union. 

In a time of great division and attacks on so many of our basic human rights, it is bold and thoughtful collaborations at the local level that will help us chart the way forward. NSRH is proud of the University of Pennsylvania chapter and student leaders from If/When/How and Medical Students for Choice (MSFC) who published a compelling letter to their campus community in response to the recent State of the Union.

"We love our relationship with If/When/How and MSFC, and we are proud to co-sign the letter. I hope it encourages other chapters to connect with the organizations on their campus," stated NSRH Chapter leader Katrina Lipinsky.

NSRH is always ready to promote the work of our local leaders on campuses and in clinics across the country who are advocating for sexual and reproductive health for all. Check out the full statement below, drafted by Sabrina Merold, Penn Law '20, Co-Chair of Penn If/When/How. Way to go UPenn!


To the Penn Community:

Over the past few weeks, politicians, the media, and the President have escalated their dissemination of inflammatory anti-choice inaccuracies about abortion later in pregnancy. This is a deliberate effort to obfuscate discussion of abortion regulation and deny Americans the right to make necessary reproductive healthcare choices.

Penn Law If/When/How, Penn Nursing Students for Sexual and Reproductive Health, and Penn Medical Students for Choice want to call out these lies and center the conversation in medically accurate facts, the law, and the experiences of individuals who have had abortions later in pregnancy. All members of an educational community - even those who may not feel a personal connection to the issue -  are obligated to pay attention to these facts.

Abortion is healthcare, a private medical decision, and a constitutionally protected right. By the age of 45, 1 in 4 women will have had an abortion. No one who has had an abortion, at any stage in pregnancy, owes anyone - especially a politician - an explanation.

“Late-term” abortion is a medically inaccurate and vague term. Bills that seek to ban “late-term” abortions refer to abortions that happen after 20 weeks. Abortion care is needed after the first trimester for a variety of reasons, including serious health problems, fetal abnormalities, delays in finding out about the pregnancy, and difficulties accessing abortion services due to egregious legal and financial barriers.

We join legal experts in calling 20-week abortion bans unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade. Roe established the right to an abortion in the United States up until fetal viability (determined by doctors to be around 24 weeks gestation) and stated that abortion is legal after viability if the pregnant person’s life or health is threatened. Laws banning abortions at 20 weeks have been blocked in Arizona and Idaho.  In January 2018, the Senate rejected a federal ban.

Anti-choice politicians, including the president, have responded to recent and proposed legislation in New York and Virginia by brazenly spouting lies. Most egregiously, these laws have been characterized as “infanticide,” “post-term abortion,” and “allow[ing] a baby to be ripped from the mother's womb moments from birth.” We believe politicians and the media must be held accountable for such distortions, as in reality:

  • On January 22, 2019, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Reproductive Health Act, codifying Roe v. Wade into state law. Under New York’s old law, which had been in place since 1970, abortion was legal during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy and a pregnant person could only get an abortion after 24 weeks if their life was in danger. The Reproductive Health Act moves abortion regulations from the state’s criminal code to the health code. It also allows a healthcare practitioner to perform an abortion after 24 weeks if the pregnant person’s health is threatened or if the fetus would be unable to survive outside the womb.
  • In Virginia, third-trimester abortions are allowed when the treating physician and two other doctors determine that continuing a pregnancy would result in death or “substantially and irremediably impair the mental or physical health of the woman.” Virginia House Bill 2491 would simply end the requirement for two additional doctors to sign off and strike “substantially and irremediably” from the current law, ending medically unnecessary barriers that keep pregnant people from accessing healthcare.

Any conversation about abortions later in pregnancy must center the voices and experiences of individuals who have needed this form of healthcare.  In a recent open letter, many such individuals wrote, “We are not monsters. We are your family, your neighbors, someone you love. We are you, just in different circumstances.”

We urge you read their open letter and respond to their call for “Americans to weigh the restrictions on later abortion against our stories, not the hypothetical cases that have been fabricated to win political points.” We also urge you to witness the story of Erika Christensen, a New Yorker forced to travel to Colorado to get an abortion in the third trimester of her pregnancy after she was told her fetus had a condition that would be fatal soon after birth. The cost of the abortion at the clinic in Colorado was $25,000.

In order to achieve reproductive justice we must understand the harm such restrictions inflict on women, people of color, families, and other marginalized communities. A term coined by women of color, reproductive justice is “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.” Penn Law If/When/How strives to center our advocacy and pro bono service in this framework. In the words of Stacey Abrams during her rebuttal to the State of the Union, “America achieved a measure of reproductive justice in Roe v. Wade, but we must never forget it is immoral to allow politicians to harm women and families to advance a political agenda.” Future medical and legal professionals - and all members of educational communities - must understand that abortion restrictions disproportionately harm people of color and low-income people. We must center the voices of individuals with marginalized identities - too often excluded from mainstream media -  in conversations on abortions later in pregnancy.

Penn Law If/When/How

Penn Nursing Students for Sexual and Reproductive Health

Penn Medical Students for Choice                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
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