Vanderbilt establishes task force to address Supreme Court’s reproductive rights decision

A university-wide task force that was convened in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn federal abortion rights is working to address impacts for the Vanderbilt community. 

Chancellor Daniel Diermeier sent a message to the Vanderbilt community regarding the decision that overturns the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade decision and leaves abortion laws to the states. The decision has enormous implications, especially in Tennessee where a trigger law largely banning abortions has  come into force now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned. Tennessee is one of 13 states that have such trigger laws. The law, which bans all abortions except those to protect the life of the pregnant woman or prevent substantial harm to her physical health, goes into effect 30 days after the Supreme Court decision.  

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to support women’s health and the safety and well-being of our community and to create a supportive and inclusive environment for educational success,” Diermeier wrote. “As a leading research university, it is also our responsibility to confront head-on the most pressing challenges of our time and provide a forum for exploration, debate and scholarly research, all while providing wide-ranging resources and support to our campus community.” 

The task force, formed in early June by the Office of the Provost in coordination with the chancellor’s office, is focusing on the impact of a statewide abortion ban, particularly on clinical care, student and employee health and educational instruction, while also helping to drive academic discussion and programming to promote robust discourse and civic engagement around this important topic. As part of this effort, the university is coordinating closely with leadership at the Law School, the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing and our partners at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.  

“We recognize the decision will have a broad impact on members of the university community—with practical and policy implications that will affect the provision of medical care, medical training and research, as well as the ways we conceptualize and protect women’s rights, freedom and opportunities. We have charged the task force with anticipating and mitigating potential negative consequences for our students, faculty and staff,” Cybele Raver, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said.  

Based on the findings of the task force, the university will provide updates regarding the decision’s impact on the Vanderbilt community, measures to address the impact and opportunities for discussion and debate.  

Members of the task force include: 

Velma McBride Murry, Associate Provost (Task Force Chair)
Lois Audrey Betts Chair, Education and Human Development, Peabody College
University Professor, Department of Human and Organizational Development
University Professor, Department of Health Policy, VUMC 

Samar Ali, Research Professor of Political Science and Law
Co-Chair, Vanderbilt Project on Unity and American Democracy
Founder and CEO, Millions of Conversations 

Ronald Alvarez, Chairman and Clinical Service Chief, Obstetrics and Gynecology
Betty and Lonnie S. Burnett Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology 

Mya Batton, Senior Director, Office of Risk and Insurance Management

Sophie Bjork-James, Assistant Professor, Anthropology (race and racism, evangelicalism, reproductive politics) 

 G.L. Black, Dean of Students and Vice Provost for Student Affairs  

Donald Brady, Senior Associate Dean for Health Science Education, Vanderbilt University
Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine
Executive Vice President for Educational Affairs, VUMC 

Tanya Brown, Senior Director of HR Consulting and Employee and Labor Relations 

Melinda Buntin, Mike Curb Professor and Chair, Department of Health Policy, School of Medicine 

André Christie-Mizell, Vice Provost for Graduate Education
Dean of the Graduate School
Director, Office of Postdoctoral Affairs
Centennial Professor of Sociology

Rory Dicker, Director, Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center, Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Tracey George, Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs
Charles B. Cox III and Lucy D. Cox Family Chair in Law and Liberty, Law School
Professor, Political Science 

Nathan Green, Vice Chancellor for Government and Community Relations 

Chris Guthrie, Dean, Vanderbilt Law School
John Wade–Kent Syverud Professor of Law 

Louise Hanson, Internal Medicine, Medical Director, Student Health Center 

Pamela Jeffries, Dean, Vanderbilt School of Nursing
Valere Potter Distinguished Professor of Nursing 

Pam Jones, Associate Vice Chancellor for Health and Wellness
Associate Professor, School of Nursing 
Former Senior Associate Dean for Clinical and Community Partnerships  

 Katherine Keith, Senior Communications Strategist for Community Engagement, Communications and Marketing 

 Princine Lewis, Director of Issues Management, Communications and Marketing 

 Tara McKay, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Health and Society
Affiliated Faculty in the Department of Sociology
Affiliated Faculty in the Department of Health Policy at VUMC
Affiliated Faculty in the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health 

Mavis Schorn, Professor and Senior Associate Dean for Academics, Vanderbilt School of Nursing

Leigh Shoup, Director of Administration, Health and Wellness 

Michelle Tellock, Deputy General Counsel  

Emilie Townes, Dean, Vanderbilt Divinity School
University Distinguished Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society, Divinity School
University Distinguished Professor of Gender and Sexuality, College of Arts & Science 

Kosha Tucker, Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief of Staff, Office of the Provost 

Catherine Wood, Executive Director of University Benefits

Adrienne Hiegel, Consultant, Office of the Provost