Loyola Students React to Reproductive Rights Legislation
The Donald Trump administration’s plan to rollback birth control access, along with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s signature of a bill to increase taxpayer funding of abortion procedures, sparked reactions both nationally and within the Loyola community.
The Trump administration expanded employer rights Oct. 6 to deny contraceptive insurance coverage, contradicting a Sept. 28 bill signed by Rauner which increased taxpayer subsidies for abortions. Loyola students and the Rogers Park community have generally reacted positively to the change made by Rauner, but some students have an ethical issue with the bill.
The new Illinois law, referred to as HB40, will expand abortion access to women covered by Medicaid and state employee insurance. Previously, rape, incest and danger to the mother were already covered by Medicaid and certain employee insurance in the state of Illinois.
The law will also protect Illinois abortion rights if Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that upheld the rights of women to choose to have abortions, is overturned federally. The possibility has been discussed since the election of Trump, without much evidence of execution.
A representative from the Rogers Park Planned Parenthood clinic, located near Loyola’s campus, referred The Phoenix to statements made by Jennifer Welch, the president and CEO of Illinois Planned Parenthood, in a Sept. 28 press release.
“With access to abortion under attack at the federal level, it is essential to make sure that women will have access to safe and legal abortion in Illinois,” Welch wrote in the statement. “HB40 ends the discriminatory practice of denying women coverage based on how much money she makes or where she works.”
Susan VanDerveer, a sophomore English major and member of CARE, a group committed to sexual health and advocacy at Loyola, praised Rauner for signing the bill into law. VanDerveer said she thinks women would seek out more dangerous options if abortions weren’t taxpayer subsidized.
“I think you need to understand that not everyone’s in the same position, and you shouldn’t really be focusing on the act itself but supporting your fellow human being,” VanDerveer said. “If [people] are not going to get an abortion through a hospital or Planned Parenthood, then they’re probably going to seek out less safe options elsewhere.”
Regarding the Trump administration’s anti-birth control initiative, VanDerveer said it was a reflection of the administration’s distrust toward women.
“I think that their actions once again highlight the fact that we need more female representatives so that women’s health issues can be more adequately addressed,” VanDerveer said.
Carina Greico, president of Loyola’s student-run pro-life group, Students for Life, said she opposed Rauner’s decision to sign the bill because she believes that taxpayers shouldn’t have the obligation to fund procedures they don’t agree with, among other reasons. The junior psychology and theology double major called for students to discuss the issue, stating that “staying silent is not an option.”
“It’s an elective surgery,” Greico said. “It’s not a surgery that we all need to have. We don’t pay for someone’s plastic surgery, that’s an elective surgery. We shouldn’t have to pay for this. [Pro-choice supporters] want to have a choice to have a baby, or not to have a baby, but where’s our choice in paying for this?” Greico asked.
While Greico largely opposes the financial aspect of the bill, her main opposition is strictly moral.
“I believe that it’s a child from conception and so I believe that [abortion is] ending a child’s life and so I don’t believe that it’s okay,” Greico said. “Obviously, there are cases that are harder than others and that’s how it is, but I think that ending the child’s life in those cases is still not okay.”
Students for Reproductive Justice (SRJ), a pro-choice student group on campus, participated in lobbying for the passage of HB40, according to one of the group’s founding organizers, Christina Frasik. Frasik said SRJ has been working with a Washington, D.C. based organization, Catholics for Choice, to encourage the passage of HB40.
Catholics for Choice is an organization which uses the Catholic doctrine to support the pro-choice movement.
SRJ members contacted Rauner’s office during the summer to express support for HB40. During the week leading up to the signing of the bill, SRJ joined Planned Parenthood and the Illinois American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in lobbying for the passage of the bill.
Frasik said she believes the discussion on health care should be holistic and shouldn’t omit abortion procedures.
“If you view health care as a human right, you cannot exclude abortion from that,” Frasik said. “HB40, in expanding the public funding for abortion, ensures that everyone has the ability to make that choice, regardless of their personal financial situation.”
Students also reacted strongly to the Trump administration’s move to decrease access to birth control by rolling back an Obama-era mandate.
Frasik said the decision ignored a large part of why women use birth control and that the act shouldn’t be stigmatized.
“Birth control is a necessary aspect of health care that is imperative for anyone who has endometriosis, intense periods or simply wants to have sex without becoming pregnant,” Frasik said. “One’s employer should have no say on the health care that is covered by insurance and the beliefs of that employer should not supersede those of the individual.”
Rauner received both positive and negative responses from his fellow politicians.
State Rep. Carol Ammons (D-dist. 103) supported Rauner’s decision on Twitter.
“Thrilled to hear #HB40 has been signed! Autonomy to determine what happens to your body is not something that should depend on your income,” Ammons tweeted Sept. 28.
In a statement Oct. 4 to the Illinois Family Institute, Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-dist. 42) said the bill poorly reflects on the Democratic Party.
“I think it definitely could backfire on some Democrats who are seen as just fiscally negligent,” Ives said in the statement. “This is a huge indicator that they really don’t care about taxpayer money and spending it appropriately.”
The Trump administration is receiving similarly polarized responses on its decision to decrease insurance coverage for contraceptives.
Maura Healey, attorney general of Massachusetts, and Xavier Becerra, attorney general of California, have filed lawsuits to prevent the change.
Supporters of the new rule included Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who said the rules were important for “religious liberty.”
This article was published originally in the Loyola Phoenix.