On the silence from Duke admin on the proposed North Carolina abortion ban

guest column

Dear Duke students,

You should be terrified. House Bill 533, also known as the “The Human Life Protection Act”, was proposed by Rep. Keith Kidwell (R-Beaufort) very recently. The act, which effectively bans abortion, might affect you, or your girlfriend, or your best friend. 1 in 4 women will receive abortions in their lives, and Duke students are no exception to that statistic.

The bill includes no exceptions for rape or incest and limits the right to the procedure even if a woman’s life is at risk. The inhumanity transcends the irony of its title, which will affect women across the United States. North Carolina currently functions as a safe haven for women who live in states across the South, where abortion bans were implemented immediately following the fall of Roe v. Wade. An abortion ban in our state would physically affect women beyond the borders of the state, particularly those of low socio-economic status. 

House Bill 533 proposes a ban on abortions from conception “except when necessary to preserve the life of the mother.” And even this exception has its limits, applying only in the cases of spontaneous abortion or ectopic pregnacy. The bill also includes a clause that would make performing abortions a felony offense in the state of North Carolina. With multiple anti-abortion Democrats elected to the state legislature and the recent news that a North Carolina Democratic lawmaker would switch her party affiliation, Governor Cooper’s vitally important veto may be in jeopardy.

Though anti-abortion advocates use language about saving the lives of mothers and the sanctity of life, abortion bans will do the exact opposite. Women with pregnancy complications requiring an abortion will be forced to wait to receive critical treatment. Doctors will be forced to weigh their patients’ health against a possible felony charge. Forcing a woman to carry out a pregnancy under any conditions to which she may resist violates her fundamental human right to bodily autonomy and puts her life at risk.

Will this bill pass? What does this mean for Duke students? In North Carolina, we have a Democratic governor, Roy Cooper. If the N.C. legislature (the N.C. House and N.C. Senate) proposes and passes a bill that he does not support, he can veto the bill. If the N.C. House and N.C. Senate both have more than a two-thirds majority of support for the bill, however, they can override his veto. After the North Carolina midterm elections, the N.C. Senate reached the supermajority when more than 2/3rds of the seats were won by Republicans. The N.C. House recently reached a supermajority, when Representative Tricia Cotham announced that she intended to change her party affiliation from Democrat to Republican.

What does this mean for you? Republicans can now override Governor Cooper’s veto and we are at a high risk of losing the right to safe, legal abortions. Completely.

We should all be scared of what this means, and Duke needs to recognize and address this fear. We implore Duke to make a statement regarding how the institution plans to support students, faculty, and those within its community who are facing the repercussions of increasingly restrictive legislation in the United States. 

Our Requests from Duke admin: 

  1. A condemnation of anti-abortion legislation in North Carolina 
  2. A commitment to supporting students and working with them to ensure confidential and safe ways to obtain abortions (whether in North Carolina or another state) 
  3. Better access to emergency contraceptives on campus, including free emergency contraceptives and easy access to birth control prescriptions without parental notification (East campus specifically) 

Duke has a high rate of sexual assault on campus. This truth cannot be ignored when discussing the implications of this bill on Duke students and further highlights the importance of the university’s response to the proposal of this bill.

The ongoing attack on reproductive rights can feel overwhelming, and it can be difficult to figure out how to make a difference in fighting such abhorrent policies. Here are a few ways that you can take action today:

To address the Duke administration — we are calling upon you to do your jobs. Put together resource funds. Help us access contraception. Speak out against efforts to strip us of our fundamental rights to bodily autonomy, privacy, and freedom of choice. We are scared, and we want your support. Our rights are in jeopardy, and we need you to use your influence to condemn this dangerous legislation.

The Duke Chapter of Planned Parenthood Generation Action organizes public events, educates, supports local Planned Parenthood health centers, and mobilizes students and other young people to speak out for reproductive rights and access to reproductive health services.


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