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IOWA CITY — The day the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade — upending nearly 50 years of precedent by finding no constitutional right to an abortion — University of Iowa President Barbara Wilson emailed the UI community asking that the campus be “a place for open and respectful discussion of differences.”
“The ruling today from the U.S. Supreme Court has brought to the forefront an issue that generates strong opinions and feelings,” Wilson wrote. “Abortion is arguably one of the most polarizing issues of our time.”
Wilson didn’t express her own opinion on the matter.
That is in contrast to a message from two years ago that former UI President Bruce Harreld, Provost Kevin Kregel and Associate Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Liz Tovar distributed to the campus condemning then-President Donald Trump’s executive order barring certain types of diversity training.
UI College of Dentistry Dean David Johnsen also emailed his college at the time condemning the executive order — which sparked the ire of state Republican lawmakers, who called administrators from all three public universities to the Capitol to answer questions about free speech on their campuses.
“As a leader of a public university, my personal reactions will remain private because ultimately my responsibility is to ensure that our institution is a place that encourages rigorous debate, dialogue, and engagement,” Wilson said in her June 24 message, sent just hours after the high court issued its ruling removing the federal right to an abortion, giving states the ability to impose restrictions.
Neither Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen nor University of Northern Iowa President Mark Nook disseminated campus messages on the ruling. The UI is the only of Iowa’s three public universities with a health care system offering access to medication and procedures that prevent and terminate pregnancy.
“As of today, the court’s decision does not change the operations or services of the university,” Wilson wrote. “We will continue to monitor new and proposed legislation so we can be prepared for any decisions that may have an impact on the university and those we serve.”
UI Health Care on June 27 issued a brief update reporting, as of that date, Iowa law had not changed and “medications and procedures that prevent and terminate pregnancy remain legal and accessible, as well as in vitro fertilization.”
Although abortion remains legal in Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds is pushing to ban the procedure earlier in pregnancy. A 2020 Iowa law requiring people seeking an abortion to get two separate appointments at least 24 hours apart, previously blocked by the court, was revived last month by the Iowa Supreme Court.
“No matter where you stand on the issue of abortion, I ask that you help ensure that the University of Iowa is a place for open and respectful discussion of differences,” Wilson wrote. “Please find constructive ways to have your voice heard by participating vigorously in our democratic process.”
UI Health Care officials did not immediately answer questions from The Gazette about whether it has altered or decreased any services to date or is preparing to do so.
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