AUSTIN, Texas - Over 100 UT Austin students across many undergraduate and graduate disciplines left class Thursday to rally for abortion and transgender rights.
Students left class at 11 a.m. and gathered at the West Mall to call on the university to meet demands laid out by the UT Coalition for Reproductive Justice and Rights.
"Reproductive health care is someone's individual decision, and their decision only," said UT student Nikita Kakkad.
The demands include placing emergency contraceptive vending machines on campus, protecting the first amendment right of free speech for reproductive justice student organizations and groups, and working with University Health Services to expand resources and education around reproductive health.
Multiple volunteer deputy registrars were at the rally helping UT students register to vote ahead of November’s midterm election.
Those attending the rally were also encouraged to sign a petition. Those who live out of state were also urged to get absentee ballots.
"There has been a huge political process failure, and we need to correct that because we know the courts are not going to save us. We need to save ourselves and be able to access health care and make decisions that respect our bodily autonomy," said UT Student Zoe Dobkin.
Students from several undergraduate and graduate programs joined in, including from the School of Law, LBJ School of Public Affairs, Dell Medical School, Cockrell School of Engineering, Steve Hicks School of Social Work, and the School of Architecture.
Several other organizations rallied alongside the students, including the Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, Jane's Due Process, the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, If/When/How, Lawyering for Reproductive Justice, OUTLaw, Emergency Contraception 4 All, Asian Desi Pacific Islander American Collective, Underpaid (UT Grad Student Union), and the Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT).
The UT Austin rally is part of the Day of Student Action for Reproductive Justice, a nationwide walkout across 44 university campuses in 25 states for students to call for changes and take action to protect their rights to bodily autonomy.
Collectively, the events addressed several demands:
- Delivering student petitions to universities asking for resources such as Plan B vending machines, trans-inclusive policies, free at-home pregnancy tests, mandatory abortion training for medical students, guaranteed parental leave for student parents, and more
- Educate fellow students about how to access abortion, protect themselves online, and prevent unwanted pregnancies
- Raise student consciousness about how gender-affirming healthcare and abortion access promote diversity and equity in higher education and the workplace
- Get students registered to vote and help them obtain absentee ballots
Earlier this week, several pro-life events took place across the state. Those attending, held hands to symbolize a common link across the state.
Amy O'Donnell with Texas Alliance for Life said it’s a lie that women need abortion in order to compete academically, socially, vocationally and athletically.
"That's simply not the case. The reality is that women can have their babies planned or unplanned and do great things. They can graduate. They can work their way up in the business world if that's their desire," said O’Donnell.