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Monday, September 26, 2022

SG senator proposes bill to fund abortions, student contraceptives

The bill would implement a program to reimburse students for 50% of out-of-pocket costs for contraceptives and abortion costs in and out-of-state

A proposed UF Student Government Senate bill would reimburse students for 50% of contraceptives costs, emergency contraceptives, abortions, travel costs for abortion care in- and out-of-state and post-abortion counseling. 

Senator Oscar Santiago Perez (Change-District D) authored the bill in response to the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, removing federal protections on the right to an abortion and prompting protests around the country and in Gainesville. 

“This is the way I wanted to essentially show that the Student Senate can and should do something about this issue,” Santiago said.

The proposed bill would address the financial barrier to pregnancy-related health care for UF students. It must first pass through the Judiciary committee — which reviews all proposed legislation for five factors: constitutionality, implication, legality, format and clarity —  before it is heard on the Senate floor.

A Florida judge ruled the state’s 15-week abortion ban was an unconstitutional violation of privacy and granted a temporary injunction Thursday. Until the injunction ends, abortion in Florida is legal up to 24 weeks and permissible in later stages in cases of rape, incest and serious health concerns. 

The proposed SG bill, if passed, would require $1.5 million, which could be taken from an SG reserve fund, Santiago said. 

The fund was last used in 2021 to transfer $1.55 million to SG’s budget to improve the student experience during UF’s return to campus activity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Senate would have to approve the transfer after action from the Student Government Executive Committee, a group made up of executives of the legislative and executive branches.

Leftover funds could pay for the other 50% of out-of-pocket costs and could help students pay for Baby Gator, a UF-managed daycare offered to faculty and students with children under 5. The program costs $350 in one-time registration and application fees and $100 annually.

The UF Young Americans for Freedom Chapter, a conservative student group, denounced the bill in a statement Saturday.

“We are disappointed that our Student Government wants to use student tuition fees to pay for infanticide, related travel, and contraceptives,” UF YAF Public Relations Vice President Jackson Rowell wrote in an email to The Alligator. “There are much better ways to support and uplift women through pregnancy including donating to pregnancy care centers and volunteering to help these organizations.”

Rowell said the idea of funding abortion through student tuition was disgusting and wrong.

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Santiago worked with the UF Young Democratic Socialists of America member and former Communist Party president Alfredo Ortiz to draft the bill. 

The proposed bill began to spread on social media Wednesday, and dozens of concerned students voiced their support for the bill in emails to Judiciary Committee Chairman John Brinkman (Gator - CLAS) and The Alligator.

The proposed bill’s fund should be focused not just on abortion but on methods of birth control and prevention, Leila Kline, an 18-year-old UF business sophomore, said. 

It wasn’t a question of abortion, she said, but of public health. She said she realized the U.S. was moving backwards when she found out the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade while in line at The Hub’s Chick-Fil-A. 

“If you provide the necessary contraception to women,” she said, “we can decrease the chances for them to get pregnant.” 

The SG Judiciary Committee meeting will be held Sunday at noon in room 2350 of the Reitz Union.

Contact Sandra McDonald at smcdonald@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @sn_mcdonald.

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Sandra McDonald

Sandra McDonald is a third-year journalism major and the Student Government reporter for the University Desk. This is her first semester at the Alligator. When she's not reporting, she's probably reading fantasy novels and listening to Taylor Swift.


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