Rally for Reproductive Rights Pressures University to Take Official Stance on Abortion
On May 6, members of the Washington University community gathered in Brookings Quad to protest the draft leaked by the Supreme Court suggesting that the court could be planning to overturn Roe v. Wade. Missouri is one of 13 states to have a “trigger ban,” meaning that abortions would be banned immediately after Roe v. Wade is overturned.
The rally was organized by the WashU chapter of Planned Parenthood Generation Action (WashU PPGA). In an online flier, WashU PPGA said that the motivation behind the rally was to “call on the University to take a stand in support of abortion rights and against Missouri’s trigger ban.”
About 100 students gathered at the north end of the quad, forming a semicircle around the stage. Organizers handed megaphones to speakers, who alternated between chants — ”No justice, no peace!” “F— abortion bans!” — and short speeches. Right before the speakers were invited up, a prospective tour group was led through the quad, the guide moving his group around cardboard signs that read “Abortion is Healthcare” and “Stand Up for Your Students.”
Student activist and junior Bri Chandler spoke first. She emphasized the importance of reproductive rights while also questioning the protestors about their priorities, pointing out that the crowd was largely white and female.
“Did you come to the march about police brutality?” Chandler asked. “If you only come when your rights are on the line, your rights will never be secure.”
Chandler also urged the crowd to take action and use their anger and fear for more than just protesting. “We have to get out of the WashU bubble. We have to get connected with organizers in the community,” she said.
Chandler ended her segment with a chant—“We can do more! We will do more!”— while directing the chanters to look towards Brookings Hall, where Chancellor Andrew Martin’s office is located.
Most people who showed up were students. Lab Manager in Earth and Planetary Sciences, Melanie Suess, wearing a pink Planned Parenthood baseball cap, was one of only a couple staff and faculty members present.
“Roe is just the beginning. I think there is a cascade of rights that if Roe falls, they all fall,” Suess said. “And even if we can’t do anything today, just being here it’s nice to see other people that are concerned and ready to act to preserve what we have.”
Suess noted the lack of fellow faculty, though attributed some of the poor showing to the platform she found out about the rally on, Instagram, which she admitted older generations were less likely to have.
WashU PPGA posted about the rally two days before, on May 4 and hung up physical posters around campus.
“I’d like to see more of the staff and faculty out here. But perhaps that’s just because of the way this event is communicated, they just didn’t see it,” she said. “So I don’t take that as a lack of support, I just hope that support is there and isn’t visible today.”
Former SU President Ranen Miao jumped up to emphasize the importance of the University taking a stance against the potential Roe takedown.
“We need to take the moral stance to say that we will defend abortion access in Missouri, defend abortion access in the US and defend abortion access for all our students here at WashU,” he said.
The handful of other speakers included current SU President and junior Miriam Silberman, co-director of Uncle Joe’s and senior Emily Angstreich and second-year Brown School of Social Work student Janel Coleman.
Organizers also opened the stage to anyone who wanted to speak. Sophomore Brandy Farmer spoke about the importance of including trans people in the fight for reproductive rights care.
“I want to send an open letter to my fellow trans people, nonbinary people and trans men,” they said. “Having access to reproductive justice is so hard for us because we face discrimination, we face misgendering, we face so much bulls— from the medical care facilities and I just want you to know that we stand behind you.”
The PPGA WashU organizers ended the rally with a list of direct requests of the University, which they later posted in written format on social media.
The demands included asking for an official stance of protecting reproductive rights in Missouri, providing employees with funds to cross state lines if they couldn’t access abortion in-state and preventing WUPD from providing information to St. Louis Police Department regarding abortion care of WashU faculty, staff or students.
Dean of Students Rob Wild and Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Support and Wellness Dr. Kirk Dougher were also in attendance. Wild said the University did not currently have a plan to take an official stance on abortion law.
“I know the University, like everything, will continue to closely follow this, and if it’s appropriate for the University to weigh in, I know we will,” Wild said. “But I can tell you right now the University has no official stance on this particular issue. I mean, it’s a leak, so it’s hard.”
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