Dear Members of the Barnard Community,
We want to begin by acknowledging the importance and impact of the Supreme Court ruling on the Dobbs v. Jackson case. We know that for many of us, this is a painful moment personally and a collective challenge to our communities. We want to offer our support and perspective in our areas of expertise in health, public health and inequities as many of us in the Barnard community are anxious, outraged and shocked by the Supreme Court decision that came out this past Friday.
We want to reassure our students that the Supreme Court decision has no effect on the healthcare you can access and receive through Barnard, or the many layers of support and counseling that the College offers you. Medical and public health data support that access to a wide range of reproductive health services, including abortion, is safe, effective and a critical aspect of healthcare. A May 4 letter in The Washington Post signed by public health deans and leaders speaks to the data and research around the impact of this decision.
While abortion rights will likely be protected in New York State, these changes in reproductive health access will continue to impact individuals and communities where health inequities already exist. In a recent article in the BMJ, Terry McGovern, Harriet and Robert Heilbrunn Professor, Chair of the Department of Population and Family Health, cites demographic data that estimates an increase in pregnancy-related deaths 21% overall and 33% in Black women. Additionally, over 20 states with restrictive abortion laws have trigger laws that ban abortion with the recent decision.
As President Beilock points out in her letter, the College’s mission statement reads, in part: “As a college for women, Barnard embraces its responsibility to address issues of gender in all of their complexity and urgency.” As one of the most complex and challenging issues of our time, abortion calls on Barnard not only to contribute to but also to help lead this difficult national conversation. We do this through our teaching, learning, scholarship, engagement and advocacy.
We want to invite you to engage in these important conversations. As we seek to understand what the ruling means and its potential consequences for women, girls, and anyone who can experience pregnancy in the United States, New York and Barnard, please join us on Wednesday, June 29, 7-8 p.m. EST, via Zoom, for a conversation with Terry McGovern and Janet Jakobsen, Claire Tow Professor of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies. This conversation will allow the community to unpack the meaning of this decision and engage in critical questions about bodily autonomy and health. Please register here for the Zoom link for this timely conversation on Wednesday. We will follow up about future related conversations.
We also invite you to watch the recent 2020/2021 graduation remarks given by Cynthia Nixon ’88 and Paola Ramos ’09; a recording of the April 7 Barnard Year of Science event, “What If Roe v. Wade Is Overturned?”, discussing the impact and magnitude of restricted access to abortion and women’s pursuit of economic security and family; and a link to the May 16 theatrical reading of Roe v. Wade 2.0, written by Professor Margaret Vandenburg, English Department. We also encourage you to learn from Barnard and Columbia students leading the Reproductive Justice Collective, which advocates for and shares resources for reproductive equity and justice.
We call on all members of the Barnard community to help us continue to think about how we can collectively advance the dialogue on reproductive justice, the human rights of women and any individual who has the capacity to experience a pregnancy (planned or unplanned) and women’s and gender-expansive individuals’ health more generally.
In the fall, together with the Provost, we will invite Barnard’s community to submit proposals for funding for research, advocacy and teaching that address reproductive health and rights for women, girls and those with the capacity to experience pregnancy to further activate Barnard’s commitment to supporting reproductive health and justice for all.
We know how many of you will struggle to process Friday’s news. Mental well-being is something we take very seriously at Barnard, and we must continue to look out for and support one another. Please know that you have support. Students can call Furman Counseling Center at 212-854-2092 for consultation and referral to counseling resources in their local community. Faculty and staff can make use of our Employee Assistance Program through Humana at 800-448-4358. We also want to share local and academic resources that you may find helpful.
As always, we welcome you to reach out to us with any input or questions.
Vice President of Health & Wellness/Chief Health Officer
Vice President for Inclusion and Engaged Learning/Chief Diversity Officer