Guest Essay: Linda Mills, we demand action on reproductive health care

In an open letter to NYU’s next president, students from the university’s chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America call for better access to reproductive health care on campus.


Kevin Wu

(Kevin Wu for WSN)

Averi Chen, Samantha Del Rio and Erin Lawson

The authors of this letter are members of the NYU chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America. It is addressed to Linda Mills, who, earlier this month, was appointed the university’s next president.

On June 24 of last year, NYU students across the world watched as the Supreme Court stripped women of their fundamental bodily rights. Then, we were disheartened by NYU’s lack of response. Now, we find the lack of action from the university towards providing accessible reproductive health care to be reprehensible, irresponsible and a direct attack towards students of color and low-income students.

We, as students of this university, call on NYU’s incoming president, Linda Mills, to commit to expanding reproductive health care to all NYU community members by providing abortion access without question, cost or delay through the Student Health Center.

Mills sent a letter to the NYU community on Feb. 16. In it, she uses language that obfuscates real issues and deflects from committing to concrete improvements that she can guarantee the NYU community. She writes that she is “eager” to “hear [our] stories, projects, and discoveries” and that she is “excited to see NYU and all its possibilities through a kaleidoscope of unique perspectives.”

This passive stance she takes means nothing to us. Hearing is not listening. Seeing does nothing if not followed with action. She claims that a “strong sense of community, of shared purpose, of feeling seen and heard … are assets that will be essential as we navigate the years ahead.” Feelings mean little in the wake of NYU’s deplorable lack of action in the post-Roe world. We demand action.

As it stands, NYU does not provide fully comprehensive reproductive health care without question, cost or delay to students. Currently, only “medically necessary” abortions are covered by NYU’s student insurance. We object to the term “medically necessary.” If an abortion is requested, the request should be granted without question. On the basic student insurance plan, a student must pay 20% ($100-$600) for “elective abortions” in-network. For “medically necessary” abortions out-of-network, a student must pay 30% ($150-$900). For “elective abortions” out of network, a student must pay 50% ($250-$1500). We object to paying any cost for an abortion. Abortions are health care, and health care is a human right. Furthermore, inquiring about a person’s decision to have an abortion or about their insurance status can delay their access to getting an abortion, which is a time-sensitive medical procedure. We object to any of this delay.

NYU is the only access to safe reproductive health care for many students. By imposing undue costs and delays, NYU is willingly contributing to the oppressive, patriarchal post-Roe world. In her letter, Mills claimed that the university “make[s] meaningful contributions to solving the world’s most vexing problems,” yet NYU becomes blind when it is an issue on campus.

We know change is possible. Just last fall, Barnard College committed to giving students access to medical abortions. Under state law, University of California and California State University campuses — where Mills previously studied and taught — will do the same. We ask: why not NYU?

In her letter, Mills recognizes the “persistent inequalities and discrimination, whether based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, or other factors” in this country. This is an opportunity for NYU to address these struggles in a concrete, actionable way. In the post-Roe world, there is no excuse. By choosing inaction, NYU stands on the wrong side of history; by choosing silence, NYU stands with the oppressor.

We demand that Linda Mills commits to expanding reproductive health care to all NYU community members without question, cost or delay, across NYU’s campuses.

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