Tell UMN to Reinstate the Reproductive Rights Fellowship

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Illustration by Jane Borstad with the MNDaily.

As you may have heard, the University of Minnesota Medical School recently chose to break a partnership that further trained doctors on medical procedures for women. The fellowship would provide the training and means for a doctor to teach medical students important skills in this field such as the following legal medical procedures: IUD insertions, first trimester sonographies, endometrial biopsies, and pregnancy termination. These skills are necessary for our medical professionals to ensure the safety of their medical patients.

While frequently politicized, these procedures are legal. As a public university, the University of Minnesota should not allow partisan politics to influence education, particularly when it deprives our medical students of an opportunity to become further trained in essential reproductive healthcare. The Dean of the Medical School responded “we will examine the value of this training in the context of our mission along with the values of the community.” This is simply unacceptable.  The value of this training is that it is a legal procedure with a legitimate medical purpose. Denying funding for this important training due to partisan politics compromises care for women as well as the overall education of future physicians.

This decision comes in the wake of pressure from a few state legislators threatening to pull funding for the entire University if the the fellowship was not rescinded. If the University changed educational offerings in this instance, what fellowship or program is next? This sets a dangerous precedent. Just last year, Arizona state legislators drafted a bill to ban university courses or activities promoting “social justice toward a race, gender, religion, political affiliation, social class or other class of people.” State universities opposed the pressure. Shortly after that bill died, a similar 2010 ban on high school Mexican-American studies courses was struck down in federal court as being unconstitutionally racially discriminatory. In South Carolina in 2014, two universities successfully pushed back against threats from legislators to cut funding over assigned readings with gay- and lesbian-related themes. Closer to home, the University of Wisconsin pushed back against threats from legislators in 2017 to cut funding over a university program on masculinity. This was the most recent in a series of threats to cut funding due to other courses, all of which UW pushed back against.

Standing strong against threats like these is important. In Tennessee, after the University of Tennessee gave into legislators’ demands to remove all state-provided funding from its “Sex Week” events, the legislature went further, passing a bill into law in 2016 to divert funding from the University’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion for one year and banning the university from spending state funds to help promote use of gender-neutral pronouns in classes.

Our educational programs should NOT be dictated by partisan politics.

If you are disappointed with the response from the Dean and believe the Medical School should reinstate this fellowship, sign and share this petition. #EducationOverPolitics

In solidarity, 

Simran Mishra, Incoming Undergraduate Student Body President, Trish Palermo, Outgoing Undergraduate Student Body President, AlannaPawlowski, Incoming Professional Student Government President, Rachel Cardwell, Outgoing Professional Student Government President

Note: The petition authors would like to clarify that the program would benefit all people with ovaries, not simply women.