Open Letter to Congress
Dear Members of the 117th United States Congress,
We, the students and affiliates of the Graduate Student Action Network, are writing to demand that you take action to federally protect our rights to the following:
Safe, legal, and accessible abortion
Free contraception of all varieties
Federally mandated sex education, including standardized curriculum on STI and pregnancy prevention as well as consent.
Since congressional Democrats have refused to suspend the filibuster to codify Roe vs. Wade into law or limit the power of the Supreme Court, we, the students of U.S.-based learning institutions, have been forced to take action. On October 6th, 2022, participating students at over 40 schools in at least 25 states will go on strike by not attending our classes, and at some schools, by additionally withholding our research and teaching labor. Instead, we will use the day to protest current violations of our rights to abortion and freedom of gender expression. We will also use this day to educate ourselves and one another about how to access abortion, how to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and why abortion and freedom of gender expression are essential for diversity and equity in higher education and the workplace. Additionally, we will present our learning institutions with student petitions asking them to protect our rights however they can.
We are overworked, underpaid, and indebted students and workers who have long been fighting for our livelihood, and we refuse to stand by and watch as our rights to bodily autonomy and basic healthcare are revoked undemocratically. You've forced us to use time that we could have spent solving the mysteries of the universe, engineering solutions to society’s problems, or otherwise pursuing our dream careers, to instead figure out how we can protect our fellow students’ rights without your help. Your failure to act on these life-or-death issues calls for an extreme response from us.
Congressional Democrats’ repeated appeals to "vote" and "donate" to their campaigns are a slap in the face for those of us who have been voting for them, especially for those of us who live in gerrymandered districts. Take action while you still can to protect our rights to abortion, gender-affirming care, sex education, and contraception. You are asking for our votes. Earn them.
The Graduate Student Action Network (GSAN)
Open Letter to President Biden
Dear President Biden,
We students and affiliates of the Graduate Student Action Network urge you to take two important steps to use the powers of your office to expand access to abortion services: (1) Implement a program to mail free, at-home pregnancy tests on demand to U.S. households, which would enable early detection of unwanted pregnancies and allow more people to legally and safely obtain abortions, even in states with six-week abortion bans. (2) Declare a public health emergency under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act to ensure that abortion pills like mifepristone can be provided legally by mail for free to people residing in any state regardless of any abortion restrictions in place, and to ensure medication providers are legally protected.
Our first request was inspired by the former COVIDtests.gov program that allowed U.S. households to order free COVID-19 test kits. The successful implementation of this program, while it lasted, demonstrates the feasibility of a similar program providing free at-home pregnancy tests by mail. To make sure this pregnancy test program is most beneficial, we implore you to provide at least twelve free pregnancy tests per year per person who can become pregnant so they can test every month. Because children can and do become pregnant, these tests must be provided to anyone regardless of their age and without a request for parental consent. Because men, intersex, and nonbinary people (among others) can and do become pregnant, these tests must be provided to anyone regardless of their gender. To protect test recipients from abuse, we entreat you to mail these tests in discreet packaging. Finally, to ensure test efficacy, please provide tests of the most sensitive quality, which can detect pregnancy even before a missed period, and enforce shipping conditions that preserve tests’ functional integrity.
We understand that the COVIDtests.gov program was suspended because Congress failed to approve funding to replenish the supply of tests. In the event that Congress fails to approve funding for a free, mail-order pregnancy test program, we beseech you to use all executive powers at your disposal as President of the United States to implement this program. For example, you could invoke the Defense Production Act to enable mass production of sensitive pregnancy tests, just as you invoked it in June, 2022 to accelerate production of clean energy technologies.
In your June 24th statement on the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade, you made the following promise: “Until [the November election], I will do all in my power to protect a woman’s right in states where they will face the consequences of today’s decision.” Fulfill your promise to protect people’s rights to abortion, at least in part, by using your power to declare a public health emergency and to implement a program providing free, at-home pregnancy tests to all U.S. households.
Help us catch pregnancies early. Help us terminate them legally.
The Graduate Student Action Network (GSAN)
Campus-Level Demands in Student Petitions
Student organizers of campus Day of Action events have created petitions to demand that universities take on more responsibility to protect students’ rights to bodily autonomy, including their reproductive rights and freedom of gender expression. See example petitions from CUNY for Abortion Rights, New Mexico State University, University of Iowa, University of Kentucky and University of South Dakota.
Below, find a non-comprehensive list of demands that some schools have included in their petitions, followed by example petitions from participating student organizers. Note: organizers only included demands that their school can legally deliver on based on laws in their state.
The right to not become a parent
Provide funds to cover student travel out of state for abortion care (if legal).
Alternative if the above is not legal: provide information about local abortion funds on the student health webpage; make donations to these funds in some sort of civil service project; allow representatives from abortion funds to distribute info on campus.
Provide funds to pay for abortion services if health insurance doesn’t fully cover it (if legal).
Provide a Plan B vending machine on campus.
Provide medication abortions in the student health center (if they are not available by mail in your area and if they are legal to provide on campus).
Provide information on the student health webpage about:
How to obtain an abortion, even if you have to travel out of state.
How to practice safe sex and consent.
An explanation of laws regulating abortion in your state.
Advice on how to be safe online and prevent getting in legal trouble if you do need an abortion.
Provide free at-home pregnancy tests (12 per student per year) for regular testing to catch pregnancies early (if the federal government refuses to provide this).
Provide free contraception of all varieties (if your health insurance doesn’t already cover this).
Hire health practitioners who are able to provide outpatient procedures such as inserting and removing IUDs and nexplanon implants (both with anesthetic).
Provide legal support for students prosecuted for obtaining abortions.
Provide paid time off for abortion procedures in addition to standard sick leave allotment (“medically necessary absence”).
The right to become a parent
Make affordable health insurance available through the university.
Ensure that international student healthcare fees are not excessive; that students working for the university have access to university staff insurance subsidies; and that insurance available to faculty, staff, and students actually covers gender-affirming care and reproductive healthcare.
Note that students receiving health insurance through the VA, IHS, or other federal program do not have access to abortion services, and strive to fill this gap.
Provide (better) childcare subsidies.
Create designated lactation rooms on campus.
Provide guaranteed paid parental leave for student parents of all genders, even the non-birthing parent.
Provide health insurance that covers IVF in cases of infertility.
Provide fertility testing at the student health center or make sure it’s covered through off-campus providers (AMH blood test, etc.).
The right to freedom of gender expression
Provide funds to pay for hormone therapy if insurance doesn’t fully cover it.
Hire practitioners who are able to prescribe hormones, or write referral notes for hormones and surgeries, at the student health center.
Implement preferred name change policies that do not require a legal name change, including the ability to change university email addresses.
Provide specific training to Title IX coordinators around trans issues.
End gendered categories/gender balance requirements in intramural sports.
Require all-gender restrooms in ALL campus buildings, particularly gyms, classroom buildings, and healthcare facilities.
Include needle disposal boxes in ALL restrooms, particularly in dorms.
Ensure that "career closets" and other clothing exchange places have inclusive sizing labels.
Remove gendered language from the code of conduct and other university policies.
Include information about trans issues in Safe Space and similar trainings.
Medical student training
Make abortion training mandatory for medical students.
Include sufficient family planning and abortion curriculum material in the preclinical years to prepare all students for rotations and clinical practice, as outlined in Medical Students for Choice’s Basic Curriculum for Reproductive Health.
Expand clinical year opportunities for abortion and family planning focused subinternships and electives to include all interested medical students.
Support abortion training for out-of-state providers.
Misc. bodily autonomy / medical privacy
Eliminate policies requiring a doctor's note, funeral notice, or other proof of justification in order for an absence to be excused.