Vice President Kamala Harris speaks with a microphone to a crowd of seated college students.
Anne Skelton, a fifth-year M.D.-Ph.D. student at VCU (second from left) listens as Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at a roundtable discussion in Washington. (Contributed photo.)

VCU student participates in roundtable with Vice President Harris on reproductive rights

Anne Skelton, a student in the School of Medicine, was one of 75 student leaders to visit the White House for the event last week.

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Anne Skelton, a fifth-year M.D.-Ph.D. student at Virginia Commonwealth University, was one of 75 student leaders from 33 states who met Friday with Vice President Kamala Harris to discuss reproductive health care access following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision in June that overturned Roe v. Wade.

Skelton, who is Student Government Association president for the graduate and professional student senate and served last year as a student representative to the VCU Board of Visitors, said it was exciting to hear from the vice president and other student leaders “not only regarding reproductive rights, but also protections for women, LGBTQ+ and historically marginalized students.”

“It was very empowering and really has me thinking about more things we can do for our students as we go into the midterm elections and beyond,” she said. “I think it is also nice to hear validation from such a powerful figure that the work you do as a student leader is important and matters not only to your institution, but all communities of which you are a part.”

Anne Skelton smiles with the White House in the background behind her.
Anne Skelton, pictured outside the White House, is studying physiology and biophysics in the School of Medicine. (Contributed photo)

According to the White House, the student leaders informed Harris how young people are mobilizing to oppose abortion restrictions, as well as the intersection of limits on abortion access, voting rights and LGBTQI+ rights.

“The vice president and student leaders spoke about supporting survivors of sexual violence on college campuses and making it easier for individuals to receive health care free from stigma,” according to a White House summary of the meeting. “The participants raised concerns about access to contraception on campus and the ability to travel out-of-state if necessary to receive reproductive care. The vice president applauded the student leaders for their work and encouraged them to continue fighting for reproductive freedom.”

Skelton, who is studying physiology and biophysics in the School of Medicine, is originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she saw firsthand how racial, ethnic and economic disparities impact health and educational outcomes. At VCU, she translated that experience into establishing a wellness initiative for the M.D.-Ph.D. program and a “passion for ensuring equitable representation for individuals and preservation of their rights to make autonomous decisions, particularly regarding the recent reproductive health care and voting rights issues.”