Fighting Abortion Restrictions in a Hostile State: My Experience Testifying at the Texas Legislature
by Katie Hansen MS1 at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin The 2017 legislative session in Texas has been a disheartening one for women and the pro-choice movement. State lawmakers have already proposed 17 bills that would make it more difficult for women to access abortion. On February 15th, I testified at …
Working with other campus and community groups can be a great boost for your chapter. Ally organizations can give you an opportunity to collaborate on intersecting issues, provide research support, and advocate on your behalf.
- Look for allies within departments of your training hospitals, at your training sites, in community organizations, in national or international non-profit or professional organizations, and in MSFC’s network of members and alumni.
- Don’t forget to reach out to nearby MSFC medical student chapters or to other student groups for support. They often share the concerns of residents, too.
- Offer to help groups working on topics of mutual concern.
Here is a list of ally organizations with which your chapter can collaborate. It is not a complete list but a good place to start.
Dealing with Opposition
Medical Students for Choice is committed to the safety of our members. On occasion, an MSFC member or chapter may experience threats or harassment due to the controversial nature of our work. These guidelines are designed to give you steps you may follow to better ensure your safety and the safety of your chapter’s members.
Threats can come in physical, verbal, or written form. Any communication is deemed a “threat” if a reasonable person would interpret the communication as an intention to create the fear of bodily harm. Threats are a rare experience for our MSFC chapters but should be taken seriously if they occur. The guidelines below will give you step-by-step instructions for responding to a threat.
Harassment by mail, email or in person is the most common type of potential safety issue faced by our chapter leaders. Harassment can include threats, but are most often communications or actions that hinder your efforts by forcing you to turn your energies elsewhere. Examples of harassment include:
- Tearing down or defacing flyers posted to inform your fellow residents of an MSFC-sponsored event
- Nasty emails about MSFC research, mentoring, or events.
- Verbal argumentative behavior at an MSFC event (heckling).
Guidelines for Responding to Threats or Harassment
If you or any colleague is threatened, you should notify your campus security immediately.
Document the Incident
It is important that you keep a careful record of any incident involving threats or harassment to establish a pattern for future consideration by your school’s administration or security office.
- If the incident occurs at an event, have those attendees who witnessed the incident write up a description of the event and save the reports for campus security. Include the name of the person causing the problem, the general content of the threat or harassing comment, and any other elements of the incident (such as the number of persons involved) that may bear on an assessment of the seriousness of the incident.
- If the incident is by voicemail or email, save the harassing or threatening message and show to campus security.
Alert Campus Authorities to the Problem
Once you have documented the incident, you should ensure that others, including those in positions of authority on your campus, know about the incident. There are two reasons for this: a) it ensures that there is a record of the incident if additional incidents occur and an official response is appropriate, and b) it provides a context for law enforcement if an incident of harassment escalates to a threatening situation.
Alert your fellow resident MSFC supporters to the Incident
Because any other MSFC supporters in your residency program may be exposed to threats or harassment from the same group or individual, officially informing others of the incident is important.
Notify MSFC HQ
MSFC HQ maintains a record of campus incidents and, if the situation is more serious, can arrange for private security consulting for any member of your group that may feel threatened.
Special Note on Picketing: Picketing is a legally protected activity in many of the countries where MSFC works and is not considered to be either a threat or harassment. There are legal parameters around picketing activity in some cities, however, so it would be useful for you to be aware of a “bubble zone” legislation in your town or city that requires picketers to maintain a certain distance. Picketers must generally stay on public property, so they may not be permitted to picket on your campus.