- Eric Santomauro-Stenzel
Four months later, activists’ reproductive freedom advocacy encounters progress and obstacles
SADOVE STUDENT CENTER, Student Activities Village - As the spring semester closed, Hamilton activist energy overflowed campus, with hundreds of students protesting anti-reproductive healthcare rhetoric and the potential overturn of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case guaranteeing Americans’ right to abortion. Four months later, after SCOTUS overturned Roe, the status of reproductive healthcare and advocacy for it has seen both progress and obstacles. While Hamilton College has announced some changes and affirmations of current policy regarding reproductive healthcare for students, not all of the goals in Student Assembly’s (SA) May 9th resolution on the subject have been met. Elsewhere, activists with the Reproductive Freedom Protest (RFP), founded and predominantly organized by Hamilton students, have been working to rebuild and grow their movement following a rushed and controversial first few weeks that still achieved impressive turnout at protests at colleges across the country.
Propelled by individuals involved with organizing RFP who were also members of SA, the Assembly passed its first resolution of the year, R22-1 Reproductive Freedoms for Hamilton Students. Passed 15 to 2, the resolution called on Hamilton College to: supply all bathrooms on campus with menstrual products; expand locations where contraceptives are freely offered; offer “as many free or reduced-cost emergency contraceptives as needed”, including Plan B, Ella, and if requested, surgical/in-clinic abortions; make such services free of charge to students, transporting students to off-campus for reproductive healthcare; and to create a webpage centralizing all available reproductive healthcare resources. “It is a fact that Hamilton College does not provide adequate access to sexual, reproductive, and menstrual services on and off-campus. If you research what other NESCAC (and non-NESCAC) institutions are doing, you will find a clear disparity,” said SA Vice President and reproductive freedom organizer Marvin Lopez ‘23 in a May 10th statement emailed to all students.
Four months later, some of these measures have been implemented. In a June 24th email reacting to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, President David Wippman told the community the College would continue providing transportation services to Planned Parenthood, offer STI testing at the Health Center, provide birth control and “feminine care products,” and offer pregnancy option counseling. He also said the Health Center was exploring providing Plan B. “Our goal is to continue to provide safe, confidential, and unbiased care for all of our students seeking health services and support,” said Wippman.
Health Center Director Barbara Fluty told Monitor via email that Plan B is now being offered for $20 per pill at the Health Center. This cost is lower than the usual market rate. Students must, “call the health center for an appointment in order to have a conversation with a medical professional before it is dispensed,” according to Fluty.
Asked about in-clinic and surgical abortions, Fluty directed students to Planned Parenthood. Asked whether the Health Center would provide Ella, a pill similar to Plan B but that can accommodate a higher weight range, Fluty said, “We looked into both options but our vendor was not able to provide us with anything other than Plan B at this time.” Also asked about the possibility of providing mifepristone and misoprostol, drugs utilized in self-managed abortion, Fluty redirected students to Planned Parenthood.
Since SCOTUS overturned Roe in a 5 to 4 vote, states across the country have restricted or banned abortion. This list, which continues to grow, includes almost all of the south and several other states around the country. The Washington Post estimates that 1 in 3 women in the country have now lost access to abortion. According to Hamilton's Class of 2026 profile, Texas is one of the top 10 states 2026 students come from. Texas is one state where abortion has been banned; the profile does not indicate in any detail how many students come from other states not in the top 10.
Therefore, the sizable portion of students from states that have made abortion illegal will face difficult choices at the end of the semester if they find out they are pregnant. Asked whether such a situation in December or May would be a legitimate cause for students to have extended-stay to receive abortion-related healthcare, Residential Life declined to confirm or deny the possibility. Assistant Director Tanith Sherman said, “There are many situations in which Residential Life works with students who have extenuating circumstances which create a need for housing during times when the halls are closed. We look at each situation and consider them individually, and will continue to do so in the future,” in an email to Monitor.
SA’s resolution also required the creation of a committee within the first three weeks of the fall semester to advance its goals. However, almost all of the drafters of the resolution are no longer SA members. Already, SA has needed to fill five elected-position vacancies this semester because not enough people ran for office in the spring, a frequent occurrence for the Assembly.
According to Lopez, he created the committee last week. “As one of the remaining members in SA who helped write this resolution, I'll be leading the efforts of the committee for the time. Membership is open to all SA and non-SA members, and I invite anyone who is interested to join, even if your commitment is solely feedback and/or suggestions.”
Students’ activist energy on reproductive issues was strongest in May when RFP was able to organize students at schools across the US. Since then, however, the network’s public presence has faded. Its Instagram has not made a post since May 6th. RFP’s official email and the individual described as its primary “leader” by many organizers, Dewayne Martin ‘24, did not respond to several requests for comment from Monitor. Some students at Hamilton involved with the protests, disproportionately trans students and women of color, were critical of RFP as centering cisgender men (particularly Martin and Lopez) in decision-making and media representation. However, some organizers told Monitor that their work has continued and that they have taken concrete steps to address concerns raised in May.
Organizers told Monitor they’ve refrained from posting publicly because they have not wanted to speak as a group until they have a more solidified leadership structure. “A large part of last semester’s critiques was who was behind the RFP account. Using our own accounts/platforms allows for that transparency while many aspects of our reproductive freedom organizing are in flux.” Further, a trip that had been planned to DC to protest the decision with funding from the College was called off due to how students would have been required to return to Hamilton’s campus to board a bus. The organizers instead encouraged their members to attend protests individually.
“As individuals, we have used the summer to grow our skills sets and confidence. We are certain that there is more coming, through the form and feel of that is still very much under scrutiny by us. With classes, senior theses, and commitments to Student Assembly and other organizations, our reproductive freedom initiatives may at times be slowed. This will be less of a problem as we slowly grow our team,” read a portion of the statement to Monitor from Lopez, Evelyn Molina ‘23, and Allison Sheehan ‘23. “What is next may mimic some of the structures we’ve seen in the past, while including new ones and altogether replacing others. Anything is possible!”
Sheehan, SA Parliamentarian and reproductive freedom organizer, told Monitor in a statement that “Hamilton students, as well as students from some other schools” met through the summer to “reflect and discuss how we should move forward with the movement.” These meetings included about 8 students and occasional pop-ins from other individuals and groups like Men4Choice. She continued, “Throughout this process, I believe the group developed reasonable and productive goals, as well as a new structure that is not dependent on a sole person and allows members to meaningfully participate at various levels of commitment. At this point, we’re still hoping to get new members involved and build community. We still have many ideas and potential projects to unpack in terms of continuing our work on/off campus, but we hope to have news soon. We encourage anyone that wants to get involved now or has any questions to reach out to us.”
Lopez told Monitor via email, “For now, we are moving slowly.” He also said he and Martin had been decentered from the organizing. Soon, he says, a Slack will be made open to anyone who wishes to join once an onboarding system is established. “Finding spaces to discuss and express our ideas, feelings, and emotions is the first step to ‘doing something.’ Without these spaces of community and open discussion, there can be no brainstorming that is inclusive and on a reasonable timeline.” Lopez will be sharing an update on the committee’s work at tonight’s SA meeting, according to the meeting agenda.
Corrected 9/5 for copy.