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Sunday, August 14, 2022
NEWS  |  CAMPUS

UF administration stagnant, SG blocks contraceptive legislation after Roe v. Wade overturn

UF health official said the university is not responsible for student health decisions

In the weeks following The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade June 24, UF remains silent as campus leaders remain stagnant in policy change. 

UF has not issued a statement addressing the Supreme Court’s decision as of July 4 and has no intention of doing so, UF interim director of strategic communications Cynthia Roldan wrote in an email to The Alligator. Other universities, like the University of Michigan and the University of California, officially commented on the ruling following the decision.  

UF Student Government Senate Judiciary Committee also blocked a potential SG Senate bill that proposed reimbursing students for contraceptive costs and other forms of reproductive healthcare. 

Students should do their own research to see what form of contraception is best for them, Dr. John Smulian, UF college of medicine’s  department of obstetrics and gynecology chair, said, and it’s not UF’s role to encroach on students’ health care decisions.

GatorWell, a UF service available to all students, provides condoms, lubricants, dental dams and counselors who can speak about sexual health. 

UF should make its contraceptive resources more well-known, Emma Lotze, an 18-year-old UF biology and applied physiology and kinesiology sophomore, said.

“The U.S. sex education system is terrible,” she said. “It’s interesting that the hospital [UF Health] hasn’t said anything, because I feel like that would be something that’d be more likely.” 

UF Health receives research funding from Gov. Ron DeSantis, who backed anti-abortion legislature.

Some students believe UF administration will not speak on the overturn to avoid clear political affiliation.

The university may fear the loss of prospective students and applicants, Grayson Sweeney, an 18-year-old UF biology freshman, said. 

“That [statement] can cause a lot of controversy for themselves,” she said. “They can lose students, especially if they go to one side.” 

If UF were a private university, she said, it could afford to affiliate one way or the other, but it wouldn’t be in its best interest to speak out with its dependence on government funding.

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A proposed UF SG Senate bill, postponed indefinitely by the Judiciary Committee Sunday, would have reimbursed 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 Roe v. Wade overturn.

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

The Judiciary committee voted unanimously to block the bill from reaching the Senate floor. Judiciary Chairman John Brinkman (Gator - CLAS) said the proposed bill violated the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches by compelling Student Body President Lauren Lemasters to exercise her executive authority to appoint agency heads.

Hours after Sunday’s Judiciary meeting Santiago submitted a censure investigation into Brinkman for abuse of power, nonfeasance and malfeasance. He also submitted a case to the SG Supreme Court Sunday, which will address the case when it meets again in the Fall. 

Santiago said Brinkman actively abuses power by allowing his committee to avoid citing the five criteria — constitutionality, implication, legality, format and clarity — in which the committee can review legislation, incorrectly applying the criteria and not informing an author on what criteria his or her bills failed. 

"Once again, we see a situation where when Change Party does not get their way politically, they result to starting a scene, going on a baseless witch hunt, and abusing the Senate procedures for partisan political gain. Their claims here are once again entirely without merit,” Brinkman wrote in an email to The Alligator Sunday night. 

He echoed similar sentiments in an abuse of power censure investigation that ultimately exonerated Senate President Elizabeth Hartzog earlier this Summer.

Santiago’s proposal will fail at the next Judiciary meeting if it is not brought back into consideration. If a bill fails, it cannot be resubmitted for consideration until the first day of the next semester. Change Party’s efforts to rescind the Judiciary Committee’s decision at the Senate meeting Tuesday also failed against a Gator Party majority.

Brinkman brought up concerns about the documentation of sensitive personal and medical information; all information submitted by potentially reimbursed students could be subject to public records requests. Students would have to choose between funding or privacy, he said.

The fund’s focus on methods of birth control and prevention were important, Leila Kline, an 18-year-old UF business sophomore, said. 

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

The Senate passed a resolution Tuesday supporting reproductive health resources for UF students. Minority Party Leader Faith Corbett, an author, created an amendment adding to the proviso the deans of all UF’s colleges among other student association executives in order to share the included resources across campus. The amendment to include those names failed but the resolution itself passed.Corbett was visibly frustrated during Tuesday’s meeting and said she would send the legislation to those officials without the Senate's blessing. She said those who voted no were barriers to health care opportunities on campus.“How often do we truly see the impacts of our legislation reach the audience necessary?” she asked. 

Contact Lindsay Schindler at lschindler@alligator.org and Sandra McDonald at  smcdonald@alligator.org. Follow them on Twitter @lindsschinlder and @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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