SU senator urges Trump, Congress to uphold Planned Parenthood budget allocations
Student Union senator and sophomore Brian Adler authored a letter calling for President Trump and members of Congress to uphold budget allocations to Planned Parenthood.
The letter is cosigned by student government presidents from several colleges and universities nationwide, including the University of Chicago, Pomona College and American University, in addition to Student Union’s president, senior Kenneth Sng. The coalition rejects that funding Planned Parenthood is a violation of the Hyde Amendment, a law introduced in 1976 that prohibits the usage of federal funds for abortions.
According to Adler, funds allocated by the government are mostly covered by Medicaid and are not used toward abortions. Rather, they provide low-income individuals access to family planning and health services. Proposals to defund Planned Parenthood, the letter reads, would harm communities, especially those that cannot afford health care from other providers.
The document is inspired by a letter crafted by Cory Bisbee, the undergraduate student president of Clark University, who urged Trump to uphold and continue Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), H-1B visas and visas for international students, generally. Following the publication of the DACA letter, Adler saw an opportunity to continue engaging in collective action with other academic institutions.
“I was impressed when I saw the DACA letter, and I thought right now is a really good opportunity in this political climate to really take a stand and represent a lot of people at the same time. I think a lot of people feel like their voices aren’t being heard right now,” Adler said.
Adler desired to use his platform both as a congressional intern at the office of Lacy Clay, U.S. Representative for Missouri’s first congressional district, and as an SU senator to generate excitement amongst students about engaging with political issues. By gaining signatures from individuals representing their respective universities, Adler’s letter represents a large voice of concerned young citizens. He discussed at length the framing of this issue with Sng and Constitutional Council. They determined that approaching the defunding of Planned Parenthood as a public health issue would be the most effective way of engaging with a political issue without violating SU’s constitution.
“We were trying to find a balance and provide a perspective on this issue and to take a stand on the issue without necessarily alienating any parts of our student population. And the letter was very carefully framed to that objective,” Sng said.
As organizations who are required to maintain a politically neutral stance, engaging with issues at the federal level can be tricky for student governments. American University student government president Devontae Torriente viewed the defunding of Planned Parenthood as greater than one’s political party affiliations.
“I was inclined to sign it because I think the issue of equitable access to necessary health care resources transcends partisan lines. As the president of AU’s student government, I tend to avoid getting involved in anything partisan because of our nonpartisan nature as an organization. However, I think this topic, in particular, is about standing up for what’s right and using my platform to protect the resources students depend on,” Torriente said.
After reaching his target number of signatures, Adler plans to use his contacts from his congressional internship to send this letter to its target audience: Trump and U.S. congressmen. Adler hopes that this letter becomes a model for how Student Union can use its platform to engage with both local and national issues that have lasting effects on student life at the University.
“I think our responsibility shouldn’t be just working with student groups to get their budgets or to fix a chair outside or whatever we sometimes do. I think we should really be working to represent their interests on a broader level as well,” Adler said.
Torriente hopes that Adler’s letter sets a precedent for student organizations finding ways to engage with political issues without adopting a partisan stance.
“I hope the precedent it sets is that speaking out about political affairs isn’t necessarily off-limits because they impact us. Federal affairs seem out of reach and above our heads sometimes, but, in my view, leveraging student power and looking to the future is quite powerful,” Torriente said.
Sng hopes that SU can continue to engage with broader issues affecting issues outside of the Danforth Campus but emphasized the importance of continuing to advocating for students’ interests.
“This letter is part of the initiative to go beyond the Wash. U. bubble. But I think at the end of the day we do need to stick to our core values of advocating for students so not necessarily taking stances on every issue that’s out there but taking stances on issues that a huge chunk of our student population feels strongly for,” Sng said.