SA votes down bill of impeachment, debates merits of providing emergency contraception to students

ANU DESAI AND DANIEL KALISH / THE FLAT HAT

Tuesday, Nov. 9, the College of William and Mary’s 329th Student Assembly voted down a bill of impeachment for one senator and debated bills relating to contraception and pregnancy testing.

A bill of impeachment against Sen. Shaunna Scott ’23 was introduced at the beginning of the meeting, and Attorney General Rory Fedorochko ’22 explained the rules of impeachment and the potential next steps if a bill of impeachment passed. If an undergraduate senator misses eight meetings or a graduate senator misses 12, Fedorochko explained, a bill of impeachment will automatically be introduced by the Secretary of the Senate as prescribed by the Code of the Student Assembly. As Scott had reached eight missed meetings, a bill of impeachment was automatically introduced at the Nov. 9 meeting. Multiple former senators reached the missed meeting benchmark previously in the semester, but resigned before a bill of impeachment could be introduced at the following meeting. 

Scott explained that her absences were due to her army training and other extracurricular involvements.

“I just contracted with the army, it was a very extensive process,” Scott said in the debate period before the impeachment vote. “Just this weekend, I missed [committee meetings] because I was at field training… then the week before that, I was in Petersburg for the actual contracting process… on other weekends, I missed committee meetings. I realized those were not excused, but I was put in charge of creating, choreographing and practicing for the Stompfest show. I’ve really been trying to contribute and do my part and plan events, that’s what I wanted to specialize in this semester.” 

Other senators stressed the validity of Scott’s reasons for absence, and also emphasized the work Scott has contributed outside of meetings. 

“The amount of time that we individually put into our own initiatives and our own projects as well as our own responsibilities outside of these committee meetings are really valuable, and just because attendance isn’t taken during those times, and those hours aren’t getting reported — or noticed, frankly, by other people in senate — doesn’t mean it’s any less valuable and contributing to the student body experience,” Sen. Mia Tilman ’24 said.

In the paper ballot, senators failed to reach the two-thirds vote necessary to pass the bill of impeachment, sparing Scott from a trial at next week’s meeting.

Later in the meeting, Tilman and Sen. Jahnavi Prabhala ’22 introduced the Subsidized Pregnancy Testing Act. Tilman and Prabhala stated that the intention of the bill was to ensure that students are able to acquire pregnancy tests regardless of their financial status, potentially preventing the need for prenatal services or abortion.

Senators also engaged in debate over the Subsidized Emergency Contraception Act, also sponsored by Tilman and Prabhala, which allocates $1,507 from the SA reserves to the student health reserves to subsidize the cost of flyers and 100 doses of Levonorgestrel, an emergency contraceptive. The flyers will display an informational campaign put together by SA’s Department of Outreach and will include information for students on how to acquire Levonorgestrel and its cost, as well as health guidelines regarding who or what the pill may be effective for and potential side effects. The campaign will also emphasize safe sexual practices.

The pro-life campus organization Tribe for Life submitted a public comment in regard to the bill, arguing against the use of Levonorgestrel. They began by citing the pro-life group Texas Right to Life’s argument that “Plan B” pills, including drugs like Levonorgestrel, are essentially “abortion pills” that terminate viable pregnancies, comparing the drug to RU-486, an FDA-approved medical abortion drug.

This is incorrect, as Levonorgestrel does not terminate pregnancies, but rather prevents pregnancy in the first place.

“Levonorgestrel is not the same as RU-486, which is an abortion pill,” WebMD states on its website. “It does not cause a miscarriage or abortion. It will not work if you are already pregnant when you take it.”

Nevertheless, Tribe for Life argued that Plan B pills threaten the lives of unborn children, and thus should not be subsidized by SA.

“The moment of conception creates the unique DNA of a human life,” Tribe for Life wrote in their public comment. “With Plan B having a similar chemical makeup to the abortion pill, it puts women and the life of her conceived child at risk of physical and psychological harm. To protect life and its value, Plan B should not be subsidized on the campus of William and Mary.” 

However, the makers of Plan B pills, along with organizations such as Planned Parenthood, point out that Levonorgestrel’s ability to prevent pregnancy actually eliminates the need for an abortion.

“The morning-after pill will not induce an abortion in a woman who is already pregnant, nor will it affect the developing pre-embryo or embryo,” Planned Parenthood states on their website. “Emergency contraception prevents pregnancy and helps a woman prevent the need for abortion.”

Tribe for Life was unable to be present at the meeting and did not respond to several requests by Sen. Prabhala for a follow-up response during the meeting. 

Given that the efficacy of emergency contraception can change depending on individual body types, Sen. Hashir Aqeel ’25 recommended on behalf of the Public Affairs Committee that there be a resolved clause to look into options to expand inclusivity and cater to all body types on campus, to which Tilman agreed.

Aqeel also requested further information about what the Student Health Center would be telling students about side-effects. Tilman stated that the Student Assembly is focusing on funding the drug, trusting the Student Health Center and its team of medical professionals to give correct advice to patients. 

The debate continued with multiple motions to extend until a roll call vote took place. Freshman President Yannie Chang ’25 voted to abstain, as did Aqeel and Senators Sean Nguyen ’25, Regina Chaillo ’25 and Eugene Lee ’23. 

Ultimately, the bill passed, since the number of abstentions did not outweigh the votes of the rest of the senate body. 

 

Also at this week’s meeting: 

  • Senate Chair Owen Williams ’23 discussed progress on the “No Class on Election Day Resolution” bill which was previously passed in the session. In an informal hand-raise vote, the vast majority of senators indicated that they would be in favor of the academic year starting on a Monday rather than Wednesday to allow for classes to be canceled on Election Day and Labor Day. 
  • Class President Vicka Heidt ’24 resigned effective at the end of the semester, citing her upcoming transfer to Georgetown University.

 

 

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