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Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Crime log: Subject barred after shoplifting at bookstore
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

Op-ed: Medication abortion belongs on campus

Abortion is not a bad word, but GW seems to think it is.

Maddy Niziolek and Stephanie Spector are the co-presidents of GW RAGE.

More than 820 community members have called on GW to provide medication abortion in the Student Health Center, but GW has refused to offer this essential health care to its students. Instead, Colette Coleman, vice provost for student affairs and dean of students, responded with an email this past Tuesday listing the contraceptive services the health center provides, adding that they provide referrals for “termination of pregnancy.”

Access to contraception is not the same thing as — nor a replacement for — abortion. That may come as a surprise to officials who only responded to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the greatest rollback of abortion rights nationwide, by installing emergency contraception vending machines after students’ vocal, collective action. Students deserve access to the full range of reproductive health care, including both contraception and abortion.

Abortion is not a bad word, but GW seems to think it is. GW even euphemistically describes abortion as “termination services” on their website and in the aforementioned email, and former University President Mark Wrighton’s week-late statement on the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization did not use the word “abortion” at all.

Medication abortion, typically a combination of misoprostol and mifepristone or misoprostol alone, is safe, effective and common, accounting for more than half of all abortions in the United States. Easy access to medication abortion allows students to have the abortions they want when they want them and how they want them.   

GW RAGE has repeatedly asked the dean and assistant dean of student life and University President Ellen Granberg to provide medication abortion through the University, and the director of the SHC rejected our request. Despite these repeated asks, and in the context of the most restrictive abortion laws nationwide since before Roe v. Wade, officials continue to ignore our demands for basic health care.

If national averages hold true for GW, the University has forced as many as 250 students to leave campus to access abortion care in the eight months since we first asked officials to provide medication abortion on campus. Abortion doesn’t have to be hard to access, but these students face barriers at every step because of stigma, anti-abortion policies and a lack of support from the University.

GW’s failure to provide medication abortion has made it easier for students to end up in the hands of anti-abortion fake clinics, also known as crisis pregnancy centers. These “clinics” are often not staffed with medical professionals and are known to lie to, deceive and coerce young pregnant people into not having abortions.

Since GW does not provide information about how or where to access abortion on the SHC’s website, students are forced to turn to the internet for help where they are bombarded with millions of dollars worth of ads from anti-abortion fake clinics. Google “I need an abortion” from GW’s campus and the first two results are anti-abortion fake clinics. 

Anti-abortion disinformation has also proliferated on campus. Students have put up Students for Life flyers in bathrooms and stickers around campus that direct students to these fake anti-abortion clinics, steering them away from the care that they may need with no comment or condemnation from officials.

Students who seek abortions face compounding financial, geographic and logistical barriers to care. The average cost for a medication abortion at Planned Parenthood is $580 and can cost up to $800. The nearest clinic on SHIP is also more than 30 minutes away, and students are berated with harassment from anti-abortion protesters upon entering clinics.

GW provides students many health care services like STI and UTI testing and oral contraceptive prescriptions so they can access them more easily. Many of these services are available at nearby clinics, but officials consciously decide to provide them and signal the University’s support for safe sex. However, the hurdles in accessing abortion surpass those of other medical services — that GW won’t provide medication abortion highlights its lack of support for reproductive health care. 

Wait times for abortions in D.C. have increased after the fall of Roe v. Wade, exacerbating existing provider shortages amid an influx of out-of-state patients. Providing medication abortion to students would alleviate some of the burden of increased patient volume on local abortion clinics, having national impacts for the many people who travel to D.C. for care. 

GW can and should reduce the burdens on their students and on local abortion providers. Instead, officials are choosing not to provide this basic health care to their students — but they cannot keep ignoring the demands of their students, alumni, faculty and community members. GW’s lack of vocal and actionable support further stigmatizes abortion, creating an unsafe community on campus for those who have had or will have an abortion. It is long overdue that GW treats abortion as the normal and essential part of health care it is. 

Join us in calling on the administration to provide medication abortion on campus by signing the petition at GW must do better for their students, community and D.C.

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