Reproductive Justice Rally Brings Abortion Rights Awareness to Students

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Photo by Hally Zhou

Jacob Khuu

Senior Staff Writer

UC Santa Barbara’s (UCSB) chapter of Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) and  Graduate Student Action Network (GSAN) collaborated with several independent political activist organizations to host a Reproductive Rights rally Oct. 6. 

The primary purpose of the rally was to increase student awareness about the federal government’s infringement on abortion rights in Republican states. Other related political topics, such as domestic violence, poverty, and inadequate healthcare insurance were underscored as counterparts to abortion rights. Students marched across campus holding signs that encouraged political resistance toward the aforementioned topics, before arriving at Storke Tower to listen to keynote speakers from YDSA, Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA), and Planned Parenthood Central Coast Action Fund (PPCCAF). 

“I think it’s really important for students, especially young people that think it’s cool not to be involved in politics, to be interested in politics, to protest and to show the government that we’re not going to step down or go back to 1926,” Give-A-Damn cofounder Isabella told The Bottom Line (TBL). “It’s important that we create a community where we’re safe and free to express what we think about what we want to change in the world. I think that the main goal is to have people understand how bad [this decision] is and that this is a real issue. This is happening and it’s only going to get worse. The goal is to get students to start protesting.”

Photo by Hally Zhou

Preparations for the rally began at 10:30 a.m., with the organization leaders meeting at the Arbor to coordinate the campus march, speaker event, and tabling. By 11 a.m., approximately 150 undergraduate and graduate students congregated, with some of them carrying signs displaying various political messages. Donning yellow vests, organization leaders from YDSA and GSAN led the student congregation to the library steps, at which point they began to hand out rally chant sheets. 

Students marched in a circular route around the library — passing by Broida Hall, San Nicolas Hall, and Ortega Dining Commons — before arriving in front of Storke Tower. While marching and using megaphones, rally leaders initiated chants, such as “My body, my choice”, “abort the court”, and “stand up, fight back”. Some students and faculty members joined the march after hearing the chants and seeing the large turnout. 

“I think we’re in the midst of a reactionary takeover of American institutions. We’re seeing our rights and protections being stripped from us in real-time. I know the Supreme Court term just started, and who knows what they’re going after next,” GSAN member Joe told TBL. 

Turnout for this event was not only significant at UCSB but also throughout the nation, across 29 states in over 60 high school and college campuses. This rally was one of many coordinated as a part of a national “Day of Student Action,” which was dubbed and organized by GSAN.  

“In this country, we don’t have direct input on the court; we only have soft power. So, we’re going to build soft power by doing events like this to show our displeasure and organize people to create a movement. In a democracy, the people have power. This is the people and this is us expressing ourselves in a nonviolent way and showing our displeasure,” Joe told TBL. 

Upon arriving at Storke Tower, five keynote speakers from YDSA, SASA, and PPCCAF shared their distinct experiences with abortion, sexual assault, and ineffective policing. The first speaker, graduate student Becky, detailed her relationship with an abusive partner and her experience with receiving an abortion while emphasizing the importance of women having affordable and legal access to reproductive care. 

A second speaker from SASA shared a story regarding a female student from UCSB who was sexually assaulted and unable to have a police investigation opened because of negligent policing. The speaker encouraged students to publicize stories like these in order to gain attention from the authorities responsible for not only poor policing and legislation allowing unperturbed sexual assault, but also the removal of reproductive rights. 

PPCCAF President June urged students to vote for Proposition 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot, which would maintain reproductive freedom as a constitutional right in California. 

“We all have a part to play in making sure that the right to choose remains between an individual and their healthcare provider and nobody else. Decisions will not be made about our poor reproductive healthcare without listening to us,” June said during the rally. “Use your voice, vote in November, keep showing up to events like this, and join clubs that do everything they can to support the reproductive and sexual health of our communities. You all have energy, that means you have the capacity to cause change.”

YDSA co-chair Caela closed with a testimonial from an anonymous student who sought an abortion after becoming pregnant. 

“My future was predicated on my access to an abortion. I know how lucky I am to have had the resources available, but there are so many people who have to decide between eating, paying rent, and accessing the reproductive care that they desperately need. And this simply should not be our reality,” stated an anonymous student. “Reproductive care is healthcare, and healthcare should not be denied to anyone on the basis of income. No child should be brought into this world because their parent was too insecure financially to make decisions about their life. I know you won’t be able to experience a fraction of the emotional, physical, and financial stress that I’ve had to experience, that is why I am here today fighting for reproductive justice.”

Photo by Hally Zhou

After the rally concluded, YDSA, PPCCAF, SASA, and Women in Stem tabled in front of Storke Tower. Students and faculty were able to learn more about each respective organization and converse with the keynote speakers about their personal experiences.

Among others, YDSA member Mars emphasized the need to vote yes on Proposition 1, criticizing the Supreme Court and imploring students to take initiative with their political beliefs. 

“Unionize with your neighbor, talk to each other, and learn each other’s stories. Donate to local abortion funds and volunteer at your local clinics. Email, mail, and call your representative and ask them why they aren’t making your voice heard,” said Mars. “A strong unionized working class is the most terrifying thing that those in power can ever imagine. Why do you think they do everything in their power to divide us? Unite, join local communities, and make those in power uncomfortable.”