What is GW RAGE’s Abortion Pill Petition?

By Theodora Lawson

You might have noticed the posters around campus demanding medication abortion. The petitioners behind this proposal is GW’s Reproductive Autonomy and Gender Equity, or RAGE, club. The club’s mandate, as described by current president Maddy Niziolek, a grad student who’s been a club member since her first year at GW, is promoting reproductive justice and sex positivity on campus. “We have been working towards medication abortion on campus for almost a year now, introduced (the petition) as a means to show the administration the overwhelming student support,” says Niziolek. The clubs’ strides in championing reproductive justice activism not only come from their most recent push for medication abortion but also from advocating for more accessible and affordable emergency contraception, among many other initiatives that can be found on their website

The longevity of the petition can be traced back to a GW RAGE Instagram post from September 2023, citing how barriers to abortion access on campus mirrored the political climate across the country as the Dobbs decision curtailed many women’s access to abortion care. Now, following the unprecedented ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court, GW RAGE is again demanding the Student Health Center provide the medication. The decision from the court, issued on February 26, ruled that embryos from in vitro fertilization (IVF) are considered children, placing extreme liability restrictions on many IVF providers and hospitals. With this latest restriction on fertility treatment, many women struggling with their fertility grapple with what this ruling means for the future.  

Even though medical abortion has been available in the United States since 2000 and makes up more than half of US abortions, a 2023 survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that less than a third of adults have even heard of medication abortion. This type of abortion utilizes two medications taken successively: Mifepristone and Misoprostol. The pills are effective and approved by the FDA and the American Association of Family Physicians (AAFP). More information on the medications and the effect of state abortion bans on access are provided by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)

Despite nearly a year of staunch advocacy from the club, Niziolek says that GW administration has “yet to give a legitimate reason why they will not provide abortion medication on campus,” which is why the club returned to the petition in late January. But the members of RAGE aren’t the only students demanding change. On February 12, the GW Student Association Senate passed the Abortion Justice on Campus Bill. The bill “calls on GW to provide medication abortion in the Student Health Center at the lowest possible cost and to provide a reason for not having done so in writing within two weeks,” says Niziolek. While GW has missed the deadline to respond, Niziolek hopes that the administration will “listen to the SGA and implement the other parts of the bill” and recognize its responsibility to its students seeking greater access to the full range of reproductive healthcare. 

Access to abortion medication is not only a concern for university students but is also being highlighted on the national stage. On March 1, CVS and Walgreens announced they would begin dispensing mifepristone in legal states after completing an FDA certification. In a statement from President Joe Biden, he claims that “many women will soon have the option to pick up their prescription at a local, certified pharmacy—just as they would for any other medication.” Biden encouraged all pharmacies to seek certification at a time when “the stakes could not be higher for women across America.”

As of February 26, more than 1,100 students, faculty, alums, parents, and community members have signed the GW RAGE’s petition. Niziolek is hopeful that the petition is another step in the right direction for reproductive rights advocacy and that GW will recognize the mounting barriers students face. 

“RAGE is committed to working towards medication abortion on campus. As students, we know the barriers we and our peers face are far too high when it comes to seeking abortion care, and GW has the ability to reduce these barriers and ensure all of their students have the access to abortion they deserve. We will push GW administration for as long as it takes to get this essential healthcare on campus, because we know it is what students need and what students deserve.”  

Still waiting on a response from President Grandberg, the ball is in the administration’s court as the contentious battle for greater reproductive healthcare at GW rolls into March. 

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