In the fall of 2018, during my first semester at Yale, hundreds of students protested the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh ’87 LAW ’90 to the Supreme Court. They spoke out about sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh by his peers, Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez ’87, fearing the impact that Kavanaugh’s confirmation would have on the millions of Americans whose bodily autonomy could be stripped by the overturn of Roe v. Wade.
It was not the first time that Yale students protested the Supreme Court nomination of an alumnus. 27 years prior, in 1991, students rallied against the appointment of Justice Clarence Thomas LAW ’74 amidst the testimony of Anita Hill LAW ’80, chronicling her experience of sexual misconduct at the hands of Justice Thomas.
But Yale remained silent, and both were appointed anyway. Together, alongside three other justices, they overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022.
Four years after the Kavanaugh protests, 26 states have either banned or restricted abortion access. Many of you are from these states and know what these laws entail. Healthcare providers could face second-degree felony charges punishable by life in prison for providing abortions. Those seeking abortions are forced to carry unwanted and even non-viable pregnancies to term, even if these pregnancies are life-threatening.
One study estimates that maternal deaths will increase by 24 percent as a result of abortion bans. For Black mothers, deaths are estimated to rise by 39 percent. Reproductive justice is an issue of racial justice and class warfare. Forcing people to give birth against their will in a country without universal access to healthcare is a direct attack on the working-class, who will suffer the most.
Although Connecticut stands at the forefront of pro-choice legislation, for many students legal protection is not enough. One major barrier stands in the way — the cost of healthcare.
Currently, Yale students who opt-out of the Yale Hospitalization/Specialty Healthcare coverage to avoid the annual $2,756 charge face major challenges accessing reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare. Birth control methods like oral contraceptives or IUDs are up to the students’ external health insurance. For many, this can mean hefty co-pays that prevent them from accessing necessary contraceptive care. For those seeking abortions, Yale Basic only provides referrals for abortions, but will not cover the costs of receiving one.
Gender-affirming healthcare on Yale Basic is even bleaker. Yale Basic does not cover the cost of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Referrals require a letter from a mental health professional, meaning the problem of long wait times at Yale Mental Health & Counseling is confounded into the arduous process to access HRT. Wait times to receive HRT through Yale can be dangerously long. One student (who requested to remain anonymous) was told in August 2022 that the next available appointment was March 2024.
Most gender-affirming healthcare is covered by Yale Specialty Services, but only on a reimbursement model that requires students to front the costs themselves, which can frequently run into the thousands of dollars. This is a massive barrier to access, even if it is technically covered.
Yale Basic’s lack of coverage for reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare is a safety issue. Students may fear retaliation or abuse from their families for seeking abortions or gender-affirming healthcare, which becomes traceable through parents’ health insurance.
The U.S. has the most expensive healthcare system in the world, and students are paying the price. Amidst the abortion bans and anti-LGBTQ+ laws passing across the country, this price can be life or death.
This Thursday, Oct. 6, Yale students will rally on Cross Campus at 3:00 p.m. as part of a nation-wide day of action for reproductive justice. We will stand in solidarity with students at over 50 schools in 27 states to protest the anti-democratic decision made by only five people that robbed bodily autonomy for hundreds of millions of people.
We demand that Congress codify the right to abortion and freedom of gender expression into law, and that President Biden declare a public health emergency to make abortion pills available by mail in all states.
We demand that Yale Health provide access to abortion pills and pregnancy tests to all students and that Yale Basic guarantee $0 co-pays for birth control, IUDs, abortions and HRT.
We demand Yale Health change the reimbursement and counselor letter model for gender-affirming healthcare to up-front coverage and informed consent.
Finally, we ask Yale University to meet with student organizers to develop a plan to financially support abortion funds and publicly take responsibility for its institutional silence.
Some will say that reproductive justice is “too political” for Yale to get involved. Is it “too political” when a 10-year-old rape victim is forced to travel from Ohio to Indiana to terminate the pregnancy? Is it “too political” when a woman in Texas is forced to continue a miscarried pregnancy because the abortion procedure necessary to remove the dead fetus has been banned? This is not a partisan political issue. This is justice and injustice, freedom and oppression.
We cannot remain silent. We cannot let our rights be stolen from us. 50 years ago, students just like us organized for the right to an abortion, and they won. We have won before, and we will win again.
The petition is available online.
CAITLYN CLARK is a senior in Pierson College. She is an organizer of a Yale rally as part of the national day of action for reproductive justice, and the co-chair of the Yale Young Democratic Socialists of America chapter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.