Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism.
The Dartmouth
April 16, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

President Hanlon discusses reproductive rights at White House

The roundtable was attended by higher education leaders from around the nation.

Hanlon Visit White House.jpg

On Aug. 8, College President Phil Hanlon visited the White House to discuss reproductive rights with Vice President Kamala Harris and seven other higher education presidents, according to a White House press release. The roundtable discussion followed the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June, eliminating the constitutional right to abortion. 

In the meeting, participants discussed the challenges students face in the wake of the decision, such as academic responsibilities, financial burdens and disproportionate rates of sexual violence against women on college campuses, according to the release. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and American Council on Education president Ted Mitchell were also in attendance. Hanlon said that the higher education leaders discussed their commitment to reproductive healthcare.

“The campuses present were all deeply committed and supportive of access to reproductive health services, with the understanding [that] some [students] reside in states where those services may not be available in the future,” Hanlon said.

Hanlon explained that the meeting began with press statements, followed by a private, “broad-ranging conversation” on issues including the legality of interstate travel for abortion, the future of reproductive health training for students and the protection of personal data. In his opening statement to the public, Hanlon focused on the College’s support for reproductive rights.

“We will continue to offer insurance coverage to our students and employees that supports reproductive health, in compliance with federal and state law,” Hanlon said in the meeting. “And the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth will continue its deep commitment, through its research and educational programs, to reproductive rights for all.”

According to Geisel School of Medicine OB/GYN Paul Hanissian, reproductive healthcare educational programs are provided at “multiple touchpoints” during one’s time as a medical student at Geisel. This includes the first-year Reproductive Medicine course — in which students explore topics such as contraception and abortion — and the clinical years, during which students “learn about and participate in care fundamentally affecting reproductive rights.” He added that there is a history of advocacy at Geisel, including a chapter of Medical Students for Choice — an organization dedicated to reproductive education.

“Geisel as an organization is committed to providing a comprehensive medical education and to provide the highest standards of training to achieve health equity for all,” Hanissian wrote in an emailed statement. “We are fortunate that our clinical sites are located in states where students can learn and participate in all aspects of care for patients … These opportunities will continue to be available to all Geisel students, even in the wake of recent legal developments.”

While Hanissian wrote that the Supreme Court decision “has not yet fundamentally affected Geisel’s ability to support education or research,” he recognized that future legislation could “have a more direct effect” on reproductive health training at Geisel.

Many students applauded Hanlon’s visit to the White House, asserting the importance of clear communication regarding reproductive rights and healthcare.

“I think it’s really important for these leaders of all these colleges to come together and talk about the practices that they have in place … to make sure that students are still receiving access to reproductive healthcare,” Planned Parenthood Generation Action president Eliza Holmes ’24 said. “As PPGA president, it’s great to see Hanlon taking that step in action towards committing both himself and the College to ensure reproductive healthcare access for students on campus.” 

Nacho Gutierrez ’25 said that he was glad the White House invited a diverse array of institutions to the roundtable, and not just schools in the Ivy League. According to the press release, attendees included the City University of New York, Dartmouth College, Gallaudet University, Howard University, Oberlin College, Reed College, Tennessee State University and the University of California-Irvine. Hanlon said that the White House invited these instituions, which include historically black colleges and universities and liberal arts colleges, to ensure “broad perspectives” were heard. 

“When I first heard that it was going to be higher education [officials] speaking at the White House, I thought that that wasn’t going to be a genuine reflection of the problem nationwide,” Gutierrez said. “But then it wasn’t just the Ivy schools … so I definitely think that that represented a better microcosm of the problem.”

Gutierrez added that he wished the College had consulted with students before the meeting — a sentiment echoed by some campus leaders. While student body president David Millman ’23 called Hanlon’s attendance at the meeting “remarkable,” he said he was unaware of the meeting before it occurred and would have liked to see “students brought into the conversation.”

“Obviously we at Student Assembly, in the student government, are very willing — I know I am, and [student Bnody vice president Jessica Chiriboga ’24] is — to work with the administration [in] any way to help safeguard these reproductive rights,” Millman said. “And we look forward to those conversations.”

Aisha Twilley ’25, a member of the Sexual Violence Prevention Project student advisory board, agreed that interactions between SVPP and the administration could be beneficial.

“I do think that having a [collaboration] would be a good idea, just because the reproductive rights and sexual violence go hand in hand to some degree,” Twilley said. “So having a meeting with [the] administration, or even hosting an event where students can talk to [the] administration about their concerns and things could be something that the SVPP board facilitates.”

Hanlon added that a collaboration with students is in consideration.

“To the extent that there’s synergy with student energy and what they’re feeling, we want to get together and understand how we can be supportive together,” he said.

In addition, Hanlon said that there “will be a need for more messaging” in the fall when more students return to campus. Holmes agreed, explaining that she hopes professors will be explicit about available accommodations and that the College will clarify which resources are confidential. She added that she thinks Dartmouth should consider creating a fund to help cover travel costs for abortion.

In the meantime, Hanlon said the College will be monitoring the state legislature to understand what the administration can do if current laws change.