Amid new abortion landscape, Columbia maintains policy of referrals for services

By Olivia Cohen, Managing Editor

Kayla Macedo

On the morning of June 25, Americans woke up with the lingering feeling of elation or distress after processing the news that Roe v. Wade had been officially overturned by the Supreme Court the day prior.

The landmark decision lost its constitutional status, leaving abortion access up to each state. Quickly after the ruling, many conservative-leaning states’ abortion bans went into effect or state lawmakers were pressed to draft legislation to do the same.

While some states were forced into the panic-mode of a post-Roe world, Illinois has been dubbed an “island” for abortion access. For college students in the state, the level of abortion access and counseling depends on the school they attend. Throughout the Chicagoland area, many colleges have a health center in some capacity, yet many do not offer abortion services on-campus. UIC — home to the University of Illinois Hospital and Clinics — offers the service, but Columbia, along with DePaul University and Roosevelt University, do not.

As of August 24, the Columbia administration has not publicly sent a letter to its community discussing any changes or updates in its support or guidance to students seeking abortion services.

In an email to the Chronicle on Aug. 24, Lambrini Lukidis, associate vice president of Strategic Communications and External Relations, said despite Roe v. Wade being overturned, it will not affect Illinois.

“This is a very important topic for women and all individuals across the country,” Lukidis said. “The college will direct individuals who seek information and options about unwanted pregnancies to local health centers such as Planned Parenthood. Counseling services are also offered on campus for students in need of mental health support.”

Beverly Anderson, assistant dean of Student Health and Support, said OB/GYN doctors or practitioners should provide abortion services and Columbia does not have a medical professional equipped to perform abortions or prescribe abortion pills.

“An abortion procedure or the prescription for abortion medication should be performed/prescribed by providers who are prepared to deal with any unusual but possibly serious complication,” Anderson said in an email to the Chronicle. “As with any medical service that the Student Health Center is not equipped to perform, the student would be referred to community resources.”

The Health Center currently offers treatment for ear infections and sore throats, yeast infections, helping with minor sprains, blood sugar and pregnancy testing and once a month STI screenings.

According to prior reporting by the Chronicle, the college does offer the birth control pill or the Depo-Provera shot to students as contraceptives. Students seeking different forms of birth control are referred off-campus, most often to Planned Parenthood.

With Illinois abortion clinics anticipating an influx of people seeking the procedure and crossing into the state to obtain one, it could leave limited resources and appointments available for others.

On July 23, the Chicago Sun-Times published an article noting the elongated wait times people are experiencing in Southern Illinois – a three-to-four day waiting period has been as long as three weeks, according to Bonyen Lee-Gilmore of Planned Parenthood in the St. Louis and Southwest Missouri region, which operates one of their two clinics that perform abortions in Illinois.

According to a New York Times article published on July 15, few colleges are offering the abortion pill. UIC is one of the few schools that offered the abortion pill before Roe v. Wade was overturned.

The Times reported the University of Massachusetts Amherst plans to prescribe it starting in the fall, whereas, in California, a new law requires all public universities in the state to provide abortion medication on-campus by January 2023. In Berkeley, California, colleges have already begun to offer this.

Izzie Calton, a junior acting major who supports abortion rights said at the very least, Columbia should offer some kind of counseling to someone who is considering an abortion or coping with the aftermath of one.

Calton said she would “absolutely” like to see abortion services on Columbia’s campus, even if it meant increasing the student Health Center fee, which will be combined in the school’s new “standardized flat fee” which will be in effect Fall 2022.

“Abortion services are an important thing to have on-campus and in my opinion, it is a right as a human being to get an abortion if you need it or feel that it is the best for you,” Calton said. “It’s the same as a COVID test or getting tested for anything else. … It’s just important and I wouldn’t mind paying a little bit more.”

Students seeking abortion consultants and services can find help at Planned Parenthood of Illinois, which has an office in the Loop located at 17 N. State St.