03/21/2014 12:28 pm ET Updated May 21, 2014

How Tulane Students Are Fighting for Reproductive Rights

The issue of reproductive rights has been a topic at the forefront of policy debates across the country. From Washington to state governments, the issue has come up in legislation across the country. The fight is also taking place on college campuses.

Anticipating a barrage of anti-abortion, or TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider) laws this legislative session, Tulane students are mobilizing with other pro-choice organizations to keep abortion and women's healthcare resources available to Louisiana women.

With the Louisiana legislature convening on March 10th, the pro-choice community is wary of TRAP laws similar to those passed in Texas last summer. One bill already on the docket is House Bill 388, introduced by Representative Katrina Jackson (D - Monroe), which will require all abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic in which the abortion is performed. If the bill were to pass, clinics are likely to close.

HB 388 is not the first attempt to limit access to abortion this year. Just before Thanksgiving, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) issued "emergency" regulations that overhauled the existing regulations on abortion clinics. These 21 pages of rules give DHH the authority to immediately shut down a clinic without opportunity for appeal, even for simple infractions. Clinics stated that they would be unable to meet the burdensome and excessive requirements, and this would lead to the closure of all five clinics in Louisiana.

Because emergency regulations are usually intended for incidents where immediate action is required (like flooding or a measles outbreak), they are not voted on in a traditional legislative setting. As an agency of the Louisiana government, the DHH has the power to make regulatory changes that are needed on a day-to-day basis in the health industry, but this past fall the DHH severely abused this power to restrict Louisiana women's access to abortion.

Students on Tulane's campus found out about these regulations in late January, along with the New Orleans Abortion Fund and the Women's Health Care Center in New Orleans. A coalition of pro-choice organizations was quickly assembled and now operates under the name Louisiana Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, with Tulane students represented in the group under the student organization, Students United for Reproductive Justice.

Although the regulations were mysteriously rescinded the night before, students in SURJ rallied in Baton Rouge with New Orleans Abortion Fund, Law Students for Reproductive Justice, Medical Students for Choice, and Know More LA (a sex education campaign) at the DHH hearing on Feb.4th.

Students United for Reproductive Justice plans to continue its activism during this legislative session by encouraging Louisianans to call or email their legislators and urge them to keep anti-abortion bills off the floor. Having a powerful pro-choice voice at the Capitol is crucial to protecting Louisiana women's right to bodily autonomy.

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