The Arnold School of Public Health (Photo by Bee Brawley)

University of South Carolina students and local experts are coming together to discuss abortion issues as states debate abortion access.

The goal is to allow students, and perhaps eventually, community members, to learn how to navigate a constantly changing legal landscape in South Carolina, professor Deborah Billings said.

Billings, an expert in reproductive health and public health professor at USC, is one of the organizers of what the group hopes is many events.

“How do we deal with our own stigma?” Billings said. “How do we deal with our own doubts, our own sadness about what’s happening and not burn out?”

The first meeting will take place at the Arnold School of Public Health Research building on Assembly Street at 7 p.m. Sept. 28. That day is one that some groups worldwide are calling International Safe Abortion Day.

“A one time thing with a panel of experts – that doesn’t work,” Billings said. “This is about organic conversations, questions.”

The first meeting comes as the S.C. House debates legislation this week.

“We weren’t really seeing any events that were just allowing a space for students to come together and ask questions,” said Victoria Lambert, an event organizer and doctoral candidate at USC’s Arnold School of Public health. 

Student and youth involvement in the abortion debate is essential, Billings said.

“We want people to feel open and comfortable,” Lambert said. “We think that by limiting it to the USC community, that will help create a safer environment.”

Two legal experts will be in attendance Wednesday night, Lambert said. 

Ashley Lidow, the director of policy and government relations at the state’s Women’s Rights Empowerment Network, will speak on Wednesday. Columbia attorney Kathleen McDaniel also will be present.

The topic up first is breaking down the current legal landscape after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a 49-year-old precedent, Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide. Future events could cover a range of topics, Lambert said. 

“We hope to learn more from students and other USC community members at this first event about what they would want to see in future events,” Lambert said.

A flier for the upcoming event Sept. 28. (Photo courtesy of Deborah Billings)

The sign outside of USC’s Arnold School of Public Health Research Center (Photo by Bee Brawley)