Students Are National Finalists for Letter to U.S. Congressman

Sophie Auerbach ’21, Abigail Peabody ’22 and Samantha Hayslett ’19 collaborated on the Project Pericles Debating for Democracy Letter to an Elected Official competition, which encourages students to make their mark and spark the change they want to see in the country.

The three students wrote to U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown of Maryland’s 4th congressional district about the HER Act, which aims to permanently end the Global Gag Rule to restrict international recipients from receiving foreign assistance from the United States.

Auerbach, Hayslett and Peabody earned a place in New York City on March 28 and 29 as Ursinus representatives at the 2019 Debating for Democracy (D4D) National Conference hosted by Eugene Lang College the New School for Liberal Arts. Students in attendance will be given the chance to attend discussions, workshops and keynote addresses about a variety of topics ranging from civic engagement to social entrepreneurship

A selection of the letter by the Ursinus students reads, “We write to implore you, as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, to co-sponsor the HER Act (H.R. 671). This bill was first brought up by Nita Lowey in 2017 to address the devastating impacts of the Global Gag Rule. The Global Gag Rule, formally known as the Mexico City Policy, is an executive order created by Ronald Reagan in 1984 that took away United States funding from world health organizations’ family planning services if the doctors provided abortion to their patients, regardless of their respective country’s laws on abortion.”

Auerbach spent the past summer working for the #Fight4HER campaign in her home town of Madison, Wisc. The team advocated for the HER Act and through her work there, she learned about the Global Gag Rule and was motivated to do something about it.

“I don’t believe one person should treat someone else like they are inferior or less deserving than them. Here in the United States, the people who are making decisions about funding aren’t the people who suffer from those decisions,” shares Auerbach, “This is important globally because real families are suffering and losing essential healthcare that they need to survive and keep their communities going. It isn’t okay for us as a developed country to impose these unnecessary restrictions on people who cannot fight back.”

Peabody and Hayslett joined Auerbach to write to Rep. Brown in the hopes of encouraging him to co-sponsor and advocate for the HER Act.

Hayslett explains that the process to write the letter was collaborative and the group worked together to conduct the research and find the right words and sources to properly argue their point. She also stressed the importance of this work not only for the vast number of women it will affect, but also for the general population impacted by this topic.

“The Global Gag Rule doesn’t just hurt women though they are the ones most disadvantaged by it. The Gag Rule also shuts down local clinics in places where that might be the only one for miles, effectively killing those people’s access to health care,” Hayslett says, “The HER Act is just trying to keep as many people alive as possible. And if we have the resources shouldn’t we help others?”

Peabody also shared her personal connection with healthcare and how access is important to everyone, adding that the experience of growing up with medical issues of her own has contributed to her passion for this project.

Named after the ancient Greek statesman known for his political and oratorical skills, Project Pericles is a consortium of colleges and universities that aim to promote civic engagement and social responsibility. —By Mary Lobo ’15