University of Chicago hosts teach-in for reproductive rights


Photo courtesy of University of Chicago's Instagram

University of Chicago’s student-run reproductive rights organization held a teach-in in Hutchinson Courtyard on Monday, May 15.

While many higher education institutions in Illinois like Loyola University Chicago, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Chicago (UChicago) and Northwestern University provide on-campus health clinics for students, DePaul outsources student health care to Sage Medical Clinic. 

Unlike other Chicagoland area universities, DePaul does not provide reproductive services to students, according to DePaul’s policy on the distribution of health and medical supplies.

On Monday, May 15, UChicago students and Chicago for Abortion Rights (CFAR) spread awareness about the reproductive services available to students on-campus during a teach-in on the Hutchinson Quad. 

UChicago students wanted to inform the community of the reproductive services available on campus through the University of Chicago Medical Ryan Center, which provides accessible abortions, miscarriage care and contraceptives to students. 

A student involved in UChicago’s student-run reproductive rights organization, Project Reproductive Freedom (PRF), Zoe Torrey, said it is important that all students have access to reproductive care at higher education institutions.

“Just because the particular community that you are in is not hospitable to [that] kind of care doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve that kind of care or that you don’t have access to that in the broader world,” Torrey said. “I would say social media and the internet are great resources. There is so much going on in Chicago in terms of organizing.”

Other members in PRF spoke about the need for abortion access on campus, awareness regarding the issues people with uteruses face and the removal of crisis pregnancy centers (CPC). CPCs are centers that seem like neutral pregnancy and abortion services, but in reality are set up to discourage abortion, according to University of Georgia public health professor Andrea Swartzendruber. 

There are 97 CPCs in Illinois, according to data from CPC. 

“These crisis pregnancy centers present themselves as these medical authorities,” said PRF member Ruby Velez. “[CPCs offer] help with abortion, but it’s a really misleading front, and vulnerable people who are dealing with pregnancies will go there and be misled in a lot of harmful ways.”

Student activists also expressed the need for affordable healthcare for all, saying that the cost could be a hindrance to reproductive care, particularly for marginalized communities that may not have coverage for abortions or health insurance. 

“Insurance status is a huge determinant in access to care, whether you have private insurance versus Medicaid,” Torrey said. “Even if your policy covers reproductive care [such as] contraception or abortion, many people don’t know that. For example, many people still don’t know that Illinois Medicaid covers abortion, so they may not realize that they have access through their insurance. For people who are uninsured, people who are between insurance plans, people who don’t know they qualify for certain insurance plans, just not having the money to pay for [reproductive care] out of pocket.”

Accessibility to all groups for reproductive care is a focus, said Alithia Zamantakis, Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) member. Zamantakis said migrants are a large community that lack access to reproductive services.

“I think one of the biggest things currently is that thousands of immigrants are being shipped from Texas to Chicago as sort of a political ploy between Democrats and Republicans,” Zamantakis said. “While abortion is covered by private and public insurance in Illinois and Chicago, undocumented immigrants aren’t granted access to Medicaid or other insurance. So for thousands of people who are shipped here, they will need access to abortion.”

An estimated 425,000 people in Illinois are undocumented, according to Migration Policy Institute, and while Illinois has access to reproductive care, some states do not. The abortion ban in Texas in particular left many undocumented pregnant people without feasible options.

For PRF, crisis pregnancy centers are one of the biggest concerns facing Illinoisans and Chicagoans. However, the Deceptive Practices of Limited Services Pregnancy Centers Act, Senate Bill 1909 (SB 1909) was passed in both chambers of the Illinois state legislature on May 11, which increases protections for pregnant people by holding CPCs accountable if they provide false information to patients. 

According to Linda Loew, CFAR organizer, the fight is far from over and college students are evolving into an important group of activists. 

“I fought for abortion rights before we had Roe v. Wade, and the place that I did that was on college campuses,” Loew said. “We organized buses to go to Washington D.C. to protest for abortion rights nationally. This is a nationwide fight. We shouldn’t have to go state by state to win back something that for 50 years we’ve actually had.”

CFAR organizer Ali Cassity said college students are pivotal to the abortion rights movement and urges young people to protest on and off campus.

“I think that it’s really important to be out here [on campus],” Cassity said. “Students are always a huge part of any movement. Students are always the ones pushing hard and pushing fearlessly, and they are really militant with what they want. Coalition building and making connections and building a network is a huge part of what [CFAR does]. Making those connections [at UChicago], making strong networks of community care and fighting for abortion rights is a huge part of why we’re here today.”