The Student Alliance for Reproductive Justice created a petition for University Health Services to rename their Women’s Health Clinic to the Reproductive Health Clinic.
The Women’s Health Clinic provides gynecological services, cervical cancer screening and prevention, treatment for STIs and prevention, contraceptive counseling, discussion of pregnancy options, sensitive care after sexual assault and much more, according to the UHS website.
Student Alliance for Reproductive Justice president Maya Cherins said the gendered language affects students’ decision to seek care at UHS.
“I think there are lots of students who need reproductive healthcare and don’t choose to get it from University Health Services because of their gendered language,” Cherins said. “I think it will foster a much more inclusive and welcoming space.”
Collaborative for Reproductive Equity director Jenny Higgins thinks the change would make a lot of sense and is overdue in some ways. She believes the proposed new name would reflect not all people who need reproductive healthcare services identify as women, and she hopes the clinic would seem more welcoming to trans and gender diverse students.
Cherins was frustrated with the initial response SARJ received from their contact with UHS, and believes the response was empty and did not show UHS was listening.
University Health Services interim medical director Dr. Patrick Kelly said in an email statement to SARJ that the name Women’s Health Clinic is discouraging for individuals seeking care who don’t identify as female.
“We want to make sure that we can accurately represent the breadth of services available to students of all identities in a welcoming setting,” Kelly said. “We plan to discuss options further within UHS and with our Health Care Advisory Committee. We look forward to providing updates on this as we move through this summer.”
In the email statement to SARJ, Kelly stated UHS is committed to providing a welcoming environment for the entire campus community so all students are able to access the medical services that are provided. According to Kelly, the university’s medical trans team worked to make sure the services provided by the Women’s Health Clinic are accessible in a safe space for those put off by the clinic’s title.
Head of the UHS Marketing and Health Communications team Marlena Holden said the Health Care Advisory Committee is supportive of looking into more inclusive names.
UHS is welcoming to feedback and is looking forward to partnering with students to provide a name and space that best meets their healthcare needs, Holden said in an email statement from The Badger Herald. UHS plans to have an updated name for the Women’s Health Clinic for the fall 2021 semester, according to Holden.
Cherins heard a lot of positive feedback from the student body about the petition, including from gender-diverse students who believe the name change would benefit them. Many of the students she talked to believe the change would be a good thing and see it as long overdue.
Cherins said SARJ chose this time to put forward a proposed name change because they had different priorities during the fall semester and the current leadership team wanted to use their positions for good during their last semester on the executive board.
Higgins thinks the university should expect gender diversity in all of its services and teachings, such as providing gender neutral bathrooms in all campus buildings. She believes the university should stop its current process of starting from a point of binary and then adding as they go, and instead, use gender diversity as the foundation.
In their petition, SARJ states the proposed change is not an immediate solution to reproductive injustices but it is a step in the right direction.
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Higgins thinks there are many small changes individuals on campus can make to create a more inclusive environment, like asking for someone’s pronouns instead of their “preferred pronouns.” She believes preference can indicate that another person may or may not choose to use those pronouns.
Higgins acknowledged creating an inclusive environment is hard work. She said she has learned a lot, made mistakes and changed her thinking and hopes trans allies will continue to work to be more understanding and to do better.
“I think that the university tends to preach inclusivity and to preach intersectionality, but it’s really important that we actually take action to advance these ideas,” Cherins said. “That’s what this is all about.”