COGS Petition for Reproductive Justice

Sign our petition here to join the fight for Reproductive Justice at the University of Iowa!

To: Board of Regents, President Wilson, HR, and Student Life

Sister Song defined reproductive justice as “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.” The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson to eliminate federal protection of the right to abortion poses a threat to reproductive justice which will impact students, faculty, and staff at the University of Iowa and requires immediate, proactive action. In June 2022, the Iowa Supreme Court also reversed a prior decision, arguing the Iowa Constitution does not protect the right to abortion. A measure on the 2024 ballot could make the denial of this right explicit in the Iowa Constitution and open a pathway for the passage of the “fetal heartbeat” bill which would ban abortions after 6 weeks. 

Abortion bans negatively impact recruitment and retention of students and faculty, which is especially critical as enrollment at the University of Iowa has not yet reached pre-pandemic levels and was declining for years before the pandemic. Abortion bans disproportionately harm young people, Black and Indigenous people, people with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ community, and people with low incomes. Alabama has used the Dobbs decision as justification to ask a federal appeals court to allow the state to enforce a law banning gender-affirming care. An abortion ban in Iowa would highlight and exacerbate the University of Iowa’s existing lack of support for students and employees who can become pregnant. A 2016 survey of UI faculty and staff found 30% of parents reported they did not get enough parental leave (usually less than 12 weeks). Trans and gender nonconforming graduate students were also less likely than cisgender graduate students to report that rules and regulations are applied equitably on the 2021 University of Iowa campus climate survey.

Because abortion bans may be imminent in Iowa and Governor Reynolds has already signed legislation attacking trans rights, the university must:

  • Protect students’ and workers’ access to contraception, abortion, and medical privacy,
  • Provide adequate support for trans students and workers and student and employee parents,
  • And call for the federal and state government to guarantee these protections.

To help our members protect themselves, COGS has decided to host information on our website about how to access, and navigate threats to, abortion and gender-affirming care. Now we are calling on the university to step up and do its part.

Protect Students’ and Workers’ Access to Contraception, Abortion, and Medical Privacy

  • Provide free plan B and home pregnancy tests at multiple campus locations for all students, faculty, and staff so they can test regularly at home and detect pregnancies as early as possible.
  • Pledge to provide travel support for abortion if and when abortion becomes illegal in Iowa. Other large companies have made similar pledges, and Insight into Diversity calls on universities to cover out-of-state travel through student and employee health insurance plans.
  • Explicitly prohibit requests from instructors and supervisors for a doctor’s note, funeral notice, or other proof of justification in order for an absence from work or class to be excused. Students and employees should be allowed to use their sick/personal days without being asked to provide documentation. This is essential should leave be needed for sensitive, legally-threatened medical procedures.

Provide Adequate Support for Trans Students and Workers and Student and Employee Parents

  • Use gender-neutral language in the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) policy (e.g., change “birth mother” to “pregnant employee” or “employee who has given birth”). This is critical to ensure the policy is applied appropriately and fairly to the employees it impacts.
  • Require gender-inclusive restrooms in ALL campus buildings. This is essential for the safety of trans students and employees and to accommodate parents who need to assist their children. This map shows which campus buildings do not yet have gender-inclusive restrooms.
  • Eliminate disqualifying criteria for childcare subsidies based on income and SSN. Currently, the disqualifying criteria does not take into account the number of children in a household or other expenses, so these disqualifying criteria only serve to exclude students who may need support.
  • Provide 6 weeks guaranteed paid parental leave for all employees welcoming new children into their home, as recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
  • Provide 12 weeks guaranteed paid parental leave for employees who give birth. Allow employees to supplement this leave with FMLA. This is the minimum amount required to comply with international labor standards from the World Health Organization which call for a minimum of 18 weeks of leave with at least ⅔ pay.

Call for the Federal and State Government to Guarantee These Protections

  • Commit to protecting the rights of students and employees while actively fighting for federal and state legislation to protect these rights. The university needs to protect these rights to recruit and retain students and employees, but human rights should be guaranteed, not contingent on enrollment or employment at specific institutions. We ask you to consider signing the Graduate Student Action Network’s open letters to Congress and the Biden Administration as individuals and an institution. We ask you to advocate for students’ and employees’ rights in other forums as well.