Students, C-U community rally for reproductive rights

Layne+Brock+recites+chants+during+the+Reproductive+Rights+Rally+on+Sunday.+The+rally+was+organized+by+Amnesty+in+response+to+the+leaked+draft+from+the+Supreme+Court+to+overrule+Roe+v+Wade.+

Sydney Laput

Layne Brock recites chants during the Reproductive Rights Rally on Sunday. The rally was organized by Amnesty in response to the leaked draft from the Supreme Court to overrule Roe v Wade.

By Vivian La, Assistant News Editor

On Sunday afternoon, students and members of the Champaign-Urbana community gathered around Alma Mater to protest the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that recognized a constitutional right to abortion.

A large crowd of people held signs reading “Bodily autonomy for all” and “Hands off our bodies” at Alma Mater before marching to the Champaign County Courthouse in Urbana. The protesters chanted “health care is a right” while walking down Green Street.

Demonstrators also hung a banner on Alma Mater that read “Reproductive rights for all; no justice no peace.” 

“It’s really important to me to stand up against this because reproductive rights are human rights,” said Valena Hedin, a Rantoul resident and therapist for Rape Advocacy, Counseling, & Education Services.

Hedin said limiting abortions is just the beginning of the undoing of other policies, such as laws governing same-sex marriage and those protecting working-class citizens.

“This is an issue that is going to affect everybody, it does not stop at abortion access,” they said.

Hedin was there to provide emotional support services to people attending the rally, which was organized by the University’s chapter of Amnesty International.

Crowds gather around Alma before the march towards the Champaign County Courthouse for the rally on Sunday. (Sydney Laput)

Eleanor Humphreys, Amnesty’s president and senior in LAS, said college students are in a privileged position on campus, and they should use their power to fight for those who don’t have the same opportunities.

“It’s essential we come out and have these conversations and show that we’re not backing down,” Humphreys said.

The rally was a direct response to the Supreme Court majority opinion that was leaked last week, Humphreys said. She criticized Justice Samuel Alito’s claim that the will of the people shouldn’t dictate the court.

“I think that says enough about where our institutions are and what our institutions want to be,” she said. “If a court or government doesn’t serve the people, who does it serve?”

The rally featured speakers from different campus organizations such as the Graduate Employees’ Organization.

Chelsea Birchmier, member of the GEO and a graduate student in LAS, spoke about how the Supreme Court decision would disproportionately impact populations that are already vulnerable.

“It is not enough that abortion remains legal in Illinois. We need to expand access to reproductive care,” Birchmier said.

Birchmier also pointed the University’s responsibility to its graduate employees, saying that they don’t have year-round health insurance coverage.

“Not having health care means we don’t have reproductive care,” she said.

Linda Coleman and Kasey Sutherland have lived in Champaign since 1987 and they said they weren’t surprised by the Supreme Court’s decision. Coleman said they both came to support the next generation of abortion activists.

“For the young people, this is their battle and I’m really pleased to see them all fighting it,” Coleman said.

Students against abortion were also at the rally and formed a prayer circle near Alma Mater. Some wore T-shirts reading “Love them both,” referring to the pregnant person and their unborn.

Savannah Tucker, a sophomore in ACES, said she and other students wanted to engage in conversation and debate with people walking by. Tucker is a part of weDignify, an anti-abortion RSO on campus.

“There’s a stereotype that all pro-life people are crazy and want to hate people, but that’s not really it,” Tucker said. “Even if people disagree, there’s an open conversation to be had.”

Tucker said she agrees with the Supreme Court majority opinion and said leaving the decision to state legislatures is the best way to move forward.

Justin Frank, a freshman in Engineering and a member of weDignify, said the RSO’s goal is to get people to think about where their beliefs are coming from when it comes to abortion.

“We’re not going to force people to become pro-life,” Frank said. “We’re not going to shun people just because they have a different opinion than us.”

Zephyr Ochoa Tsatsos, a freshman in DGS, said events like the rally show how the voices and opinions of the people matter.

Ochoa Tsatsos said overturning Roe v. Wade wouldn’t stop abortions altogether, but only legal ones. They said being proactive, not just on college campuses, is a good first step.

“I really hope (the Supreme Court) sees the protests and changes their mind,” they said. “That is my hope. And if not, we just keep fighting.”

 

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