As I walked across the quad recently on my way to a final exam, a fellow student called out to me, cursing at me. It’s a greeting I’ve become accustomed to hearing even weeks after I introduced a bill in the University of Chicago's Student Government to restrict our mandatory student fees from funding abortions.
All students at the University of Chicago are required to pay a mandatory Student Life Fee as a part of our tuition. These funds are intended for educational, social, cultural and recreational activities. But in May 2017, the Student Government established a new committee as a grant program called The Emergency Fund. This committee is partly funded by the Student Life Fee. And for the 2018-2019 grant application, "all emergencies related to reproductive health (were) automatically considered first priority."
This new mandate initially went unnoticed. Then, about a month ago, a group of students were alerted to this funding reinterpretation and asked me, a Student Government representative, to draft legislation that would keep their Student Life Fees from being used against them in violation of their consciences.
[RELATED: Student proposes not funding abortions with student fees...and faces brutal backlash]
My bill, which failed to pass, is hardly radical. Although Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden caved under pressure last weekover his past support for the measure, the Hyde Amendment — which prohibits the use of tax money to pay for abortions with three exceptions — served as a model for my bill and has been federal law for 43 years. It was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1980 and protects the First Amendment rights of the majority of Americans who morally object to financially participating in ending another’s life.
The Constitution’s protection of free speech is about more than just words. It includes protections for a variety of expressive acts, from religious beliefs to financial contributions. When the powers that be coerce people into acts that infringe on their sincerely-held beliefs, this is a serious abuse of authority and a violation of free speech principles. It is the equivalent of being forced to swear an oath or read a statement against your will.
First Amendment violations have sprung up across our nation’s college campuses, but the foc
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