The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

UI senior fights for abortion rights, heads to Harvard Law

The overturning of Roe v. Wade marked Student Advocates for Planned Parenthood President Anna Behrens’ college experience.
Madison Frette
Anna Behrens poses for a portrait while tabling for the Women’s Resource and Action Center (WRAC) on the Pentacrest in Iowa City on Friday, April 19, 2024. Behrens is a Student Violence Prevention Program Assistant for WRAC.

Anna Behrens, a third-year student at the University of Iowa who is graduating a year early this May, will leave Iowa City with not only her degree but three years of advocating for abortion rights.

After she graduates from the UI, Behrens will attend Harvard Law School in hopes of focusing on international criminal law. Although leaving the UI, Behrens said her advocacy for reproductive justice won’t end in Iowa City.

Hailing from West Des Moines, Behrens will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in criminology law and justice.

In her three years at the UI, Behrens has been a member, secretary, and president of the UI Student Advocates for Planned Parenthood, or SAPP, a student organization dedicated to advocating for abortion rights.

Behrens has led the organization while abortion rights have became the center of political attention following the supreme court decision to overturn Roe V. Wade the U.S. Supreme Court precedent that protected abortion rights.

Following the overturning of Roe V. Wade, Iowa Republicans, including Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, set out to set the state’s 2018 fetal heartbeat bill, which would ban all abortions after around six weeks of pregnancy, into motion. After the Iowa Supreme Court deadlocked 3-3 on allowing the law to go into effect the Iowa legislature convened a rare special session to pass a new abortion law that awaits a decision from Iowa’s supreme court.

Behrens said her commitment to advocating for reproductive justice comes from watching her mother and grandmother being active in social movements and wanting to participate in a movement she cared about.

“I think it’s something that’s just very close to my heart personally,” Behrens said. “This was something that felt very important to me as someone who is becoming an adult, and just learning more about the reality of being a person with a uterus.”

UI SAPP falls under Planned Parenthood’s political action arm dedicated to advancing public policy promoting reproductive health care and abortion rights.

Behrens said many believe that reproductive justice equates to strictly advocating for abortion access. However, she said it encompasses much more, like access to other reproductive care including sexually transmitted disease testing, cervical exams, cancer screenings, and natal care.

“We focus on trying to create educational opportunities for the broader university community, in addition to our members, and just generally advocating in a lot of different areas,” Behrens said.

UI SAPP holds educational meetings to address different advocacy areas to inform the members and the goal of informing the broader campus community.

“We provide some support for just creating safe, supportive communities because that’s such a huge part of reproductive justice,” Behrens said. “Making sure we’re creating communities that are safe and supportive so that people can raise their children, if they choose to do so, in a good environment.”

Behrens said UI SAPP educates themselves and the public on legislation that ties to the group’s advocacy.

“We do try to be a part of the broader Iowa advocacy because even though we’re two hours away from the Capitol, it’s still super important to make sure you’re in contact with legislators,” Behrens said.

Behrens said UI SAPP is important for the UI campus because it is important that everyone has access to necessary health care.

“I think it’s really important for students to know, whether or not they choose to partake in our organization or attend our events, to know that there are people on campus who will do their best to get them the information they need so they can get the care that they need,” Behrens said.

Through her experience with UI SAPP, she said she has heard from members that they joined UI SAPP due to the stigma around safe sex conversations in their home communities where those conversations weren’t welcomed.

RELATED: Iowa Supreme Court hears arguments on state abortion ban Thursday

“They just are refreshed and encouraged and feel safe because they can now come on Tuesday nights and hear that there are other people who feel the same way,” Behrens said.

Behrens said the things that she’s learned at the UI and experienced through SAPP, such as the skills to advocate for others, will follow her into her future career.

“So, I think for me, and for a lot of other members, SAPP is important because it’s just a great, supportive space,” Behrens said.

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About the Contributors
Natalie Miller
Natalie Miller, Politics Reporter
Natalie Miller is a second-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communications. Prior to her position as a Politics Reporter, Natalie was a News Reporter focusing on Higher Education.
Madison Frette
Madison Frette, Photojournalist
Madison Frette is a second-year student at The University of Iowa double majoring in Business Analytics and Information Systems and Cinematic Arts. This is her first year working as a photojournalist for The Daily Iowan.