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Student groups hold conflicting events on reproductive rights

Iliana Santillan, Camille Adair, Tara Romano and Simran Singh Jain speak during a panel for reproductive justice on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. The UNC chapter of PPGA was founded in 2022.

On Wednesday the UNC chapter of Students for Life of America held a tabling event called “When Do Human Rights Begin?” At the same time, less than half a mile across campus, the Carolina Association of Pharmacy Students (CAPS) hosted an event called “Advocacy for Reproductive Freedom."

While neither organization was aware of the other’s initiatives, their concurrency occurred amid the ongoing debate surrounding reproductive rights on campus. 

On Oct. 17, Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life of America, presented her speaking tour “I’m Coming For Your Abortion Access” in the Carolina Union's Great Hall. Three student organizations — the UNC chapter of Planned Parenthood Generation ActionCampus Y, and UNC Young Democrats — threw a “Pro-Choice Pit Party,” including a bouncy castle, free contraceptives and voter registration information in response to Hawkin’s speech. 

Now, fewer than three weeks later, new events on campus seek to bring additional advocacy and dialogue to the issue of reproductive rights. 

In Kerr Hall, home tothe Eshelman School of Pharmacy, CAPS provided a space for students to write letters to their representatives advocating for reproductive freedom on the federal level. 

Emily Fitzpatrick, the project gender health co-chair within CAPS, said that organizing the event is important after Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that overturned the right to abortion. 

The Dobbs v. Jackson decision gave states the right to determine abortion regulations. In North Carolina, most abortions are banned after the pregnancy reaches 12 weeks. 

“It is my opinion that access to abortion is access to vital healthcare,” Fitzpatrick said

She displayed QR codes that led to an American Civil Liberties Union page calling for federal action. 

“I think people can get very emotional about this topic, and they can get very personally invested,” she said. “I think sometimes people confuse what they would personally do in a situation with what everybody should do in a situation.” 

Marielle Rath, an incoming CAPS coordinator, said she thinks sharing different ideas empowers people to speak up for matters they are passionate about, regardless of their position on reproductive freedom.  

 “A lot of the pro-life argument I think centers around the unborn fetus, and a lot of the pro-choice centers around how the person who's pregnant is being affected,” she said

In the Pit, Students for Life at UNC occupied a table showing a timeline depiction of embryonic development. 

They also displayed a QR code for students to advocate for legislative action, encouraging students to ask their legislators to protect “preborn rights.” 

Lauren Song, the president of Students for Life at UNC, said she is working to revive the student organization. 

She said the worth of human life is something that should be talked about on campus. 

According to the group’s Heel Life page, they aim to recruit, train and mobilize the pro-life generation. 

“It’s the concept of murder,” Song said. “Should murder be permissible in some cases and not allowed in others? Should that idea be subjective?” 

"Members of Carolina Students for Life believe that life begins at conception and strive to promote the sanctity of life through education, policy, and service,” according to the group's Heel Life page

Song said she thinks some students are nervous to express their views and hopes they know there are options available other than abortion. 

For those in need of reproductive and abortion healthcare resources, visit The DTH's guide to abortion and reproductive health care in North Carolina from “The Abortion Issue.”

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