New group battles Missouri reproductive laws with state Rep.
State Representative Stacey Newman was tired of hearing old white men talk about women’s bodies. Her answer: an anti-vasectomy bill aimed at mocking the idea that government should interfere with reproductive choices.
Newman, whose district includes the South 40 and some off-campus housing, was frustrated when she was one of seven women not allowed to speak during a legislative debate over a resolution concerning a federal mandate that health plans provide contraceptive coverage.
The state legislator recounted her tongue-in-cheek effort to respond during a panel discussion Thursday. Her bill, modeled on similar efforts in other states, would have prevented men from having vasectomies unless facing serious health risks.
“It was to put the same restrictions on a male who was going after their own reproductive choices that we women face in Missouri,” Newman said. “The response that came back was ‘How dare you. How dare you interfere in my personal choice.’ I made my point.”
She was one of three panelists at an event hosted by Washington University Student Advocates for Reproductive Rights (WUStARR), a new student group partnered with Planned Parenthood and aimed at advocating for women’s reproductive rights.
The others panelists also work with women’s reproductive health issues and included M’Evie Mead, state director of organizing for Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri, and St. Louis gynecologist Jaclyn Grentzer.
WUStARR is one of Student Union’s newest clubs. They began forming in September and became registered with SU in late February. WUStARR founder and sophomore Vera Schulte decided to create the group when she became more aware of the struggles of women in Missouri to achieve access to proper reproductive health.
“Growing up in Seattle, Washington, which is arguably one of the most liberal areas in the U.S., I wasn’t really aware of the detestable state of reproductive rights in other areas of the country, but my eyes were opened when I moved to Missouri,” Schulte said.
Schulte said she was particularly upset by a measure signed into law in 2014 requiring women to wait 72 hours to get an abortion after receiving counseling.
This panel, which was the group’s first big event, heavily focused on the political aspects of reproductive health. WUStARR executive and senior Emily Santos hopes to see the group approach such issues from different perspectives in the future, though she’s not sure what issues they will be.
“It is exciting to think there are a lot of different ways this group can go,” Santos said.
The event brought in more attendees than the new group expected, and DUC 234 was tightly packed by the time the speakers began.
“Honestly, I was not expecting to fill that room,” Schulte said.
Sophomore attendee Vishal Vijay said he was surprised to hear about the inner workings of the politics behind such issues and that he shared the views of panelists.
“I’m glad I went,” Vijay said. “It was kind of eye-opening to see how politics really happen, but then again I don’t totally know what to believe because that was just one side.”