Students, anti-abortion protesters attend USG reproductive rights event

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Around 50 people gathered in the Ohio Union Wednesday for the Undergraduate Student Government’s “Plan Buckeye” event, where three panelists discussed reproductive rights in Ohio. Credit: Josie Stewart | Lantern Reporter

The “Plan Buckeye” panel, held Wednesday night at the Ohio Union, was hosted by the Undergraduate Student Government and publicized on social media as a way to help students navigate reproductive rights in Ohio after the reversal of Roe v. Wade and provide free Plan B emergency contraception pills. Roughly 50 people attended the event.

Unni Shreram, a second-year in mathematics, said she planned the event alongside USG’s Health and Safety Committee and was not expecting the high turnout of both students in the event and those protesting outside.

“I feel like there was a lot of media attention last summer when Roe was overturned,” Shreram said. “ I felt that there was a space to continue that conversation because these laws are still in effect and this is still affecting all of us in this room.”

Roe v. Wade — a 1973 landmark Supreme Court case that protected a person’s right to an abortion without excessive government restriction — was overturned in summer 2022 in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Plan B, a popular emergency contraceptive to prevent pregnancy after other contraceptives failed or unprotected sex, according to the Mayo Clinic , and it does not end pregnancies already in the body.

About a dozen Students for Life members stood outside until the event’s conclusion holding signs that read “stop promoting risky sex” and “the future is anti-abortion.”

As students walked into the room, Students for Life Ohio Regional Coordinator Jamie Scherdin and others in the group offered fliers stating some risks and side effects they said could be associated with contraceptives, like Plan B.

“We’re mostly here relating to Plan B, but also the discussion in general as a whole,” Scherdin said. “There’s a lot of lies that have gone around as it relates to reproductive freedom and reproductive rights here in Ohio. We want to make sure that there are no lies being spread.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, common side effects of Plan B include nausea or vomiting, fatigue, dizziness or bleeding between periods, and there’s also always a risk that Plan B could fail.

Scherdin said by handing out Plan B, USG was promoting unsafe sex practices.

“Um, so plan B is typically supposed to be used only in the cases of emergency, right?” Scherdin said. “So, handing out plan B like it’s candy prior to anyone having a sexual interaction puts this idea into our minds that, okay, let’s go ahead and have sex and then use this as a backup.”

Shreram said she had meetings earlier in the day to prepare for any protests that may occur but was very pleased with the discussion and how calm those outside were during the panel.

“I just wanted to create a safe space where we could talk to some experts about this — hear their thoughts, and we could get our questions answered — and just keep this conversation going because it’s still happening,” Shreram said.

One of the panelists, Ana Martinez — senior campaign manager for Ohio Women’s Alliance — acknowledged the group while speaking about the politicization of abortion.

Martinez said she respected the civility of the Students for Life protest but wished the group was more willing to listen to opposing viewpoints.

“I’m very appreciative they didn’t try to blow up the event, but I do wish they would have more of an open mind, have more discussions — different things like that,” Martinez said.

Julius McIntrye, a fourth-year in sociology and one of the event’s panelists, said he enjoyed seeing students show up and participate in the discussion.

“Obviously I’ve been in USG a long time, but I was not expecting a turnout this large especially with the politicization of what abortion has become,” McIntrye said. “It was great and empowering to see a lot of students be so passionate about wanting there to be change and wanting there to be some sort of progress made for reproductive rights.”

Tom Hanks contributed reporting.

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