The Necessity of Contraceptives on College Campuses

The University of Notre Dame was recently in the news for deciding to deny birth control coverage to its students and employees.  This was a result of a recent decision from the Trump administration, saying that organizations could deny to provide contraceptives based on religious and moral objections.

Yet, the debate over whether or not schools and employers should be allowed to deny contraceptives due to religious or moral objections has been occurring for years and became more heated after the Affordable Care Act mandate that demanded this coverage.  Notre Dame, a historically Catholic university, has sued in the past for an exemption from the Obama administration’s rules, although that lawsuit was unsuccessful.  The university has also been criticized in the past by students who believed that they did not receive adequate resources. Prior to the most recent decision, Notre Dame students were able to get birth control through a third-party coverage plan.  However, the campus pharmacy refused to provide the medication to anybody who did not have a reason outside of pregnancy prevention.  Students with both on and off campus insurance plans struggled to get their prescriptions refilled.

People who take birth control pills do so for a variety of health reasons.   Contraceptives can help with irregular period cycles, painful cramping, and even acne.  They also help countless women who deal with conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis, which can both be incredibly debilitating.  For somebody with one of these diagnoses, access to birth control could have a significant impact on their quality of life.  A recent study also showed that women who take birth control pills for an extended period of time have a decreased risk of certain cancers.

Yet, even if somebody does take contraceptives to prevent pregnancy, this is a completely valid reason in and of itself.  Wanting to have safe sex without the risk of pregnancy is not something anybody should have to feel ashamed about.  The recent follow-up statement from Notre Dame, which says that students who have a demonstrated medical need would still be able to get a prescription, is not an adequate or humane policy.  Nobody should have to justify the decisions they make with their body to anybody else.  Somebody’s own personal objections should not have a negative impact on somebody else’s ability to choose and their own wellbeing.  It is time to stop interfering in women’s health and to provide them with the medical resources they need.

Author: Veronica Correa

Being Latinx in the American South

Did you know that the United States is the second largest Spanish-speaking country in the world?

People don’t often realize how the Latinx populations have historically influenced numerous aspects of American culture and how they continue to do so today.  This is particularly true throughout the American South and in North Carolina.  We can see this cultural impact in food, music and even some town names throughout the state.

North Carolina is unique in the sense that it has the fastest-growing Latinx population in the country.  We now have almost 1 million Latinx living in the state out of a total population of 10 million, and this number is expected to continue to grow exponentially.  After the 2016 election, Governor Roy Cooper reinstated the State Office of Hispanic/Latino Affairs after it had been previously abandoned by Governor Pat McCrory. The intent of this position is to have a liaison for Hispanic and Latinx residents of North Carolina at the state level.  

Yet, we don’t often get the chance to celebrate this culture.  Due to a number of socioeconomic and educational barriers, Latinx individuals are among a number of minority groups that continue to be underrepresented at places of higher education, such as UNC.  While the percentage of Latinx students who attend a two or four-year college is increasing, they may feel isolated or subjected to discrimination when they arrive at college.

Latinx workers in the South also deal with workplace inequality.  While Latinx people in North Carolina are statistically more likely to be employed than other demographic groups in the state, they tend to be concentrated in jobs such as construction and agriculture – in fact, North Carolina is the fifth-most populous farmworker state in the US. These statistics also call into question the working conditions of farmworkers throughout the country.  Latinxs in North Carolina are also more likely to live in poverty, at a rate of about 27.4%.

Latinx residents also participate in the local economy through entrepreneurship.  In 2012, Hispanic/Latinx-owned business made up 4.3% of North Carolinian business firms.  This number is also increasing at a faster rate than the overall number of new businesses in the state.

Yet, it is also important to note the Latinx community is more than its economic contributions.  It is a dynamic community of people from different countries and backgrounds throughout Latin America.

 

(The motivation for writing this article came from Dr. DeGuzmán’s talk, “Being Latinx in the South”, that took place on campus last week. During the discussion, she encouraged the audience to draw connections between old and new history.  Latinx people have impacted this region even in pre-colonial times, yet we often don’t realize this due to how we tend to whitewash history.)

Author: Veronica Correa

Grand Old Party or Guilty Old Party? The Complicity of Republican Lawmakers in the Age of Trump

As citizens, we put our trust in elected officials to uphold the values we hold most dear.  We expect them to stay true to our morals, protect our rights, and do what’s best for the public – regardless of partisan loyalties.  And most of all, we expect them to hold the president accountable.  Especially now.

Through his belligerent tweets, attempts to delegitimize the free press, blatant disregard for the truth, nativist politics and just plain bullying, President Trump has proven time and time again that he is a poor leader and an even poorer representation of American values.  Now more than ever, America needs its lawmakers to take a stand.  But the age of Trump drags on, Republicans have seemingly fallen through on their obligation to defend our democracy, instead choosing to sit back and – literally – watch it unfold.

You don’t have to look far to find the reason behind the GOP’s complicity.  Party politics often trump rationality and human decency on both sides of the aisle.  News outlets frequently leak reports of Republicans’ ~private~ disapproval of Trump, yet politicians seldom convey these concerns publicly.  Rationalizations such as “if I took the time to criticize everything the president said, I’d be busy all day” have become the GOP’s best friend in the age of Trump.  Their criticisms are few and far between, always taking the form of words rather than political action.  By laying low, they enable the president’s bigotry, lies, and childish behavior, their own prospects for reelection always in the back of their minds.

Some GOP senators such as Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, as well as Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, have in fact taken to the public stage to denounce Trump’s presidency.  And while many – including myself – find this admirable, these men constitute only three of 52 Republicans in the Senate.  There are supposedly dozens more who share these concerns – Sen. Corker, who has accused Trump of “debasing” the nation, asserts that “the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here.”  Similarly, Sen. Flake, a longtime Trump critic, has long held that his party is “in denial” about President Trump, urging his fellow lawmakers to speak up and end their “accommodation of the unacceptable.”

“Too often, we observe the unfolding drama along with the rest of the country, passively, all but saying, “Someone should do something!” without seeming to realize that that someone is us. And so, that unnerving silence in the face of an erratic executive branch is an abdication, and those in positions of leadership bear particular responsibility.”

-Arizona Senator Jeff Flake

In politics, words mean very little if they don’t lead to action.  Cue the age-old saying: actions speak louder than words.  And in Congress, it’s apparent that party speaks louder than principle.  It’s one thing to speak out against President Trump’s policies – but it’s quite another thing to vote against them.  Take the July Obamacare repeal bill(s) for example.  Leading up to the vote, a significant number of Republican senators expressed concern about the contents of the bill, publicly denouncing it as a ‘fraud’ and a ‘disaster’.  But in the end, they stayed loyal to their party, ultimately voting in favor of the bill despite the many costs it threatened to impose upon their constituents.

In light of all of this, I can only wonder – GOP senators, with whom does your loyalty lie?  When push comes to shove, who will you choose to protect?  Your party or your people?  Democracy simply does not work if elected officials don’t do their part to uphold it.  Enabling a president’s reckless behavior can result in potentially unchecked power – that’s how despotism surfaces.  If you love America as much as you say you do, then why won’t you fight to protect it?

With all due respect Senators, you will never ‘make America great again’ by sitting idly and enabling the demise of the institutions that made it great in the first place.  Your office gives you an obligation to defend democracy and protect the people who helped you get there – not your Republican allies, but your constituents. Compromising principle in favor of partisan loyalty, normalizing the endless stream of lies and indecency, abdicating political and moral responsibility in efforts to sustain your own incumbency – to engage in such flagrant complicity is dishonorable and a disservice to the American people.

The clock is ticking on a presidency that has long been on the brink of implosion.  But time has not yet run out – no matter how damning the silence, it’s never too late to do the right thing.  And so, I suggest: be more like Jeff Flake.  Be more like John McCain.  Be more like Bob Corker.  American democracy is calling your name… will you answer?

Article Written By: Paige Masten