On Wednesday, December 14th, the Reproductive Justice Collective held a rally in Riverside Park in support of providing students with access to medicated abortions across New York college campuses.

Located in front of the Women’s Health Protective Association fountain in Riverside park, abortion rights activists gathered together in solidarity for women’s reproductive rights. Besides students, rally speakers included NY Assembly Members Jessica Gonźalez-Rojas and Harvey Epstein, State Senator Cordell Cleare, and representatives at PSC-CUNY, all of whom demonstrated their support for accessibility to abortion pills across public and private universities in the state.

Several speakers contextualized the importance of allowing access to abortion pills in wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Representing the CUNY and SUNY perspectives, the first speaker, sophomore student Hennessy Garcia, drew on her personal experience trying to access reproductive healthcare while attending SUNY College of Environmental Science. “Imagine the most conservative parts of New York, going to a clinic miles away from your school and being faced with people harassing you, as New York becomes a destination state [for abortion]. Our clinics are being overwhelmed. It’s becoming harder to get an appointment,” said Garcia.

In early October, Barnard was one of the first universities in New York State to announce that they will begin offering abortion pills on campus starting after Fall 2023 in response to restrictive measures taken across the country to limit abortion access.

“Abortion is healthcare,” said Assemblymember Epstein. “If we can ensure that students can go within their campus, we can ensure they can have robust public health care. Epstein, along with other state politicians are working on passing a bill that would require all 64 colleges and universities a part of the SUNY system to make Plan C pills available to students.

Aarna, a student from New York University who is a part of RJC spoke to the doubts some have about having universities in the city offer Plan C pills when there are abortion clinics nearby. She said that the nearest abortion clinic to NYU is Bleecker Street Planned Parenthood, where, every Saturday, anti-choice groups harass patients outside the clinic. “I think it’s vital [at] this moment that we start thinking about what access actually looks like,” she said. She continued to say that “all universities have the capacity to provide us with medicated abortions. NYU, I’m looking at you. They’re choosing to ignore our need for health care and abortion access. They are choosing to be complicit.”

The speakers stressed the vitality in providing access to abortion pills on campus instead of having to go to a clinic because of the privacy afforded. The next speaker, Senator Cleare, called universities a “comfort zone” for students. “The closest thing to their family is their community on campus,” said Cleare.

Organizers handed out signs, hand warmers for the brisk weather, and information pamphlets on Plan C to participants, including information on where and how to access care as well as providing emotional support for those in need of an abortion.

“This bill will transform lives. It will allow people to determine if and when they want a family. It will allow people to get healthcare in safe spaces where they know their providers,” said Assemblymember Rojas in her speech, “There are 280,000 people of reproductive age that live in hostile states in which New York will be their provider. If we are [to say] we’re a safe haven state, we have to put our money and our resources and our legislation where our mouths are.” Applause and cheers rippled through the audience.

Before the event concluded, the speakers opened the floor to questions from other media outlets who were recording and transcribing the event. The rally emphasized how behind many colleges and universities are in terms of providing students with access to healthcare—as Assemblymember Epstein put it, abortion is healthcare.

Image via Tara Terranova