On Friday afternoon, a group of about 50 students and city residents gathered on the steps of the Paresky Center to show their support for abortion rights and take action to protect reproductive freedoms.
an initial draft of a majority opinion in which the Supreme Court would vote to overturn the precedent set by Roe v. Wade was leaked to Politico earlier this week. Roe v. Wade, a 1972 decision, struck down several laws criminalizing abortion to enshrine the constitutional right to abortion. When Roe v. Wade is officially cancelled, legality of abortion will be determined by individual states13 of which have “trigger laws,” which would immediately ban abortion once the precedent is overturned, and 19 other states likely to severely limit abortions.
It was the first-ever leak in Supreme Court history, and the contents of the draft caused public outcry from elected officials, reproductive rights advocates, and several members of the university community.
In response to the leak, some students attended a rally on Thursday organized by the Berkshire Doula Project (BDP), a student organization that advocates for reproductive rights on campus. BDP is a student organization that promotes reproductive health and trains its members to be “doulas” who provide informational and emotional support to people during and after an abortion or IUD.
“BDP members were alarmed and enraged by the Supreme Court’s leaked decision, as were many others on campus,” BDP President Gates Tenerowicz ‘23.5 wrote in an email to The Record. “We felt that as an organization of doulas who provide emotional support during difficult times, the best way to respond to the project was to do just that.”
The BDP rally gave students the opportunity to “process the news in a safe environment and collaborate on ways to take action,” Tenerowicz said. Because students who want space to process this news have been busy with schoolwork and other commitments, it was meaningful to make time and a place to reflect on emotions, she said. .
The following afternoon, for a final project for a class on artistic engagement with activism and political causes, Arden Fluehr ’25 asked people with wombs to stand on the steps of Paresky with their mouths closed. The silent protesters were meant to attract the attention of passers-by, who were asked to tape their mouths and join the initial group of protesters. Throughout the protest, Fluehr distributed informational pamphlets about Roe v. Wade to observers.
“One thing the government is trying to do is silence women — silence their rights,” Fluehr said. “A lot of the protests are very loud…but I wanted to be more artistic with my approach.”
Hours after Fluehr’s draft, a protest on the Paresky Steps was organized by members of several College clubs, such as the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA), EphVotes – the College’s civic engagement club, BDP, Peer Health and the Feminist Coalition (FemCo). College and city attendees listened to student speeches and wrote letters to Governor Charlie Baker asking him to make Massachusetts a reproductive health sanctuary state, which would ensure that residents of other states could legally apply for abortions and other care within the state. . Protesters also had the opportunity to sign a petition demanding that Thompson Health Center provide abortion drugs on campus, register to vote, and express interest in attending a protest for reproductive rights in Boston the next week.
Emily Axelrod ’25, one of the event’s organizers and a YDSA member, told the Record that she hopes standing up for abortion rights will make attendees “feel a little less hopeless and have something to do”.
For Axelrod, this activism is personal, as she sees reproductive justice as tied to her family history. A month before Axelrod’s great-grandmother died, she told Axelrod’s grandmother that she had an illegal abortion before Roe, marking the first time she told the story. . “She really wanted a girl,” Axelrod said. “But they lived in a one-room house and she didn’t have the time or the resources. And so she went from New York to New Jersey and got an illegal abortion, and took him almost to his grave.
“I’m really worried about going back to a world like this, where people had to put their safety at risk to secure their future and that of their families,” Axelrod said. “It’s already a reality in so many states across the country, and it’s only going to increase – and that’s really scary.”
Like Axelrod, YDSA organizer Emma Nathanson ’25 emphasized the personal nature of the issue. “For so many years before Roe and so many years after, many people in Wisconsin couldn’t access an abortion,” Nathanson said of his home state. Wisconsin is an “abortion desert,” which means the majority of abortion clinics are located in major cities and it can be difficult to travel out of state to get to them, Nathanson explained. .
Nathanson then encouraged attendees to support the BDP, which she says following the leak hopes to train people to provide emotional support when someone they know needs to take abortion medication. Specifically, abortion pills will become a more common way to perform abortions “if and when Roe is knocked down,” Nathanson said.
“When we talk about abortion drugs in the future, as they become the future, we recognize that while it may be easier and we’re so thankful they exist, there are side effects… that people endure that are unnecessary with surgical abortion,” she said.
Charlie Nicholas ’25, who heard about the event through social media, decided to attend because he found the potential consequences of the leaked draft to be “fundamentally life-changing”, he said. “The rights of so many Americans are being compromised.”
Williamstown high school student Annie Art heard about the event through social media and word of mouth and attended with her friend and mother. “It seems more important than anything else I could do with my Friday afternoon,” she said.
Art’s friend and townsman Ella Budington agreed. “It’s something that affects most people in the United States,” she said. “I don’t know why people are so outraged at what women do with their bodies.”
City resident David Rempell attended the event and expressed outrage at the recent developments at the Supreme Court and the figures behind them. “It’s a problem, as has been said [in the speeches], it affects everyone,” he said. “It’s an abomination what’s happening in this country — that women won’t have control of their bodies through abortion. It’s horrible. I feel a little guilty that it’s more [the older] generation of people who make the decisions and renounce abortion.
Her friend and fellow city resident, Carolyn Agostini, shared that outrage. “Why would we let someone take care of our body and our health decisions? ” she asked.
Despite the heavy subject matter discussed at the protest, Rempell said the event left him with hope for the future. “People [need to] have hope and get involved,” he said. “That’s why it’s great to see you here today getting involved – because it will depend on [the younger] generation.”