Opinion | College pregnancy, abortion, and deportation

The ramifications of criminalizing abortion may have greater impacts on international students.


Yasmina Sahir, Opinions Columnist

As the landscape for bodily autonomy-based rights changes by state, college students are paying attention to their campus communities through a new lens.

As abortion and other reproductive healthcare choices carry felony charges in some states, the ramifications for visa holders could be higher than for natural-born U.S. citizens.

It’s worrying to consider the short leap a court has to legally take to argue abortion is a deportable offense.

International students are required to carry an F-1, J-1, or M-1 visa in order to participate in high school, vocational, or postsecondary educational programs. Engaging in criminalized activities before or after obtaining a visa can lead to forced removal from or denial of residency in the U.S.

All non-U.S. citizens, including permanent residents or green card holders, can be deported or denied entry to the U.S. for “crimes of moral turpitude”. These crimes are committed with the intent to cause harm to a person or property.

Murder is a crime of moral turpitude commonly defined as “when one human being causes the death of another.” When a fetus is given claims to personhood, someone could be charged with murder if they are known to have had an abortion.

Domestic college students are making admissions decisions based on state decisions on abortion. The ramifications for international students attending schools on visas may go beyond choosing one college or another if they seek an abortion or other reproductive healthcare in certain states.

University of Iowa International Students and Scholars office associate director Michael Bortscheller was unsure what future legal ramifications UI students could face if they are charged with a crime while on a student visa.

“International students who are charged with crimes do not have their [student visa] status in the U.S. affected by being charged with crimes unless it prevents them from continuing their course of study,” Bortscheller wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan.

One in five abortion patients state vocational or educational reasons for wanting to delay parenthood and pursue abortion. 70 percent of abortions are provided to adults under age 30, overlapping heavily with the average age range of full-time college students.

Whether patients themselves, their families and friends who aid and abet, or the providers of abortion are targeted, we must remember the disparate impact these laws will have on international students, immigrants, and undocumented residents in the U.S.

If we really care about diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, UI and the Board of Regents should pay more attention to the wants of the student population than to the Republican politicians pushing pro-life agendas.


Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.