Letter from APS leadership

APS Letter Regarding Access to Reproductive Health Care

October 13, 2022

Dear APS Members,

The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization affects the lives of many across the nation, including physics professionals and students, by eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion. About half of U.S. states are expected to or have already enacted bans on abortion or other gestational limits. While respecting that individuals have differing views on abortion, as a scientific organization we feel compelled to acknowledge the impact that recent changes in access to reproductive health care have on all people, including women in physics. Research shows that access to legalized abortion leads to increases in educational attainment and improvements in employment outcomes. These effects are greater for women of color and women with lower socioeconomic status, as well as students and early career scientists who may lack the financial resources needed to fulfill parental responsibilities.

As a member-driven society, APS is committed to listening to members about the impact of the Dobbs decision and considering how this should inform the actions of the Society. The APS statement on Protection Against Discrimination declares that “the protection of the rights of all people…will guide the Society in the conduct of its affairs.” Understanding what actions might help begins with hearing from those most affected by the recent changes in access to reproductive health care and involving them in devising practices and policies. We invite APS members to contact the Committee on the Status of Women in Physics (CSWP) to share their experiences, to comment about the impacts of the Dobbs decision on members of the physics community and to identify opportunities for action. We also encourage members to engage in local or national advocacy in their personal capacity.

This is an important moment to reflect on the APS Statement on the Status of Women in Physics. This statement “urges [APS] members, physics leaders, and policymakers to take action to improve the recruitment, retention, and treatment of women in physics at all levels of education and employment.” In the U.S., only about 22% of undergraduate degrees and about 20% of doctoral degrees in physics are awarded to women. At stake are the “health and future achievements of our discipline.”

APS has invested substantially in promoting the participation and success of women in physics, through its Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWIP), longstanding Climate Site Visit Program and grants for Women in Physics groups, among other programs and initiatives. Many APS meetings offer Meeting Caregiver Grants and provide access to lactation rooms. APS Governmental Affairs advocates for legislation consistent with our policy statements, most recently in the CHIPS Act, which included language to broaden participation and address sexual harassment.

We stand fully behind the APS statements highlighted in this letter and remain committed to realizing the vision they articulate. We encourage members to become involved in APS initiatives that support women in physics.

Sincerely,

Frances Hellman
PresidentUniversity of California, Berkeley
Robert Rosner
President-ElectUniversity of Chicago
Young-Kee Kim
Vice PresidentUniversity of Chicago
Sylvester James Gates, Jr.
Past PresidentUniversity of Maryland
Robin Selinger
Speaker of the Council
David G. Seiler
TreasurerNational Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Jonathan A. Bagger
CEOAmerican Physical Society
Michael Thoennessen
Editor in Chief
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