Hundreds of UC San Diego students and faculty gathered on Friday, May 6 and Tuesday, May 10, in front of Geisel Library in objection to the leaked draft of the Supreme Court opinion overturning the landmark abortion case of Roe v. Wade. Protesters closed down the intersection on La Village Drive on Tuesday, after marching through Price Center and Target in a bid to bring attention to the importance of abortion and privacy rights.
The protests hosted a variety of speakers including ethnic studies lecturer Dr. Karen Shelby, representatives from Borderlands for Equity and Planned Parenthood, as well as undergrad and medical school students. While the focus of the speakers pertained to the dangers and implications of anti-abortion laws for women, various speakers condemned UCSD and UC Regents administrators for lacking to comment on the issue. Demonstrators also heard touching testimonies by women who have or have considered undergoing abortion procedures.
Earl Warren College junior Damar Valentin, touched on the duality of laws regulating women’s bodies as opposed to male’s bodies.
“There is a war being waged against women,” Valentin said. “The supreme court has ultimately decided that women should not be granted the same freedoms and liberties that men are. And that women should not have the right to be equal to men. They have decided that the question of abortion should be returned to the states to let them decide. A decision that is atrocious for the same reason that we do not allow states to decide whether or not slavery should continue to exist as we did for many years in this country.”
Earl Warren freshman Elizabeth Lopez, who is six months pregnant with a high-risk pregnancy, gave her testimony about considering abortion due to health and financial risks. Lopez discovered she was pregnant days before her husband was to be deployed by the navy.
“I gave myself a week to make my decision [to abort],” Lopez said. “The decision of being alone with the psychological toll of going through an abortion alone. Or being alone with my husband’s deployment with a high-risk pregnancy. I cried. I cried and I hated myself for every decision I had made. I returned and I ultimately chose this pregnancy. I CHOSE.”
She continued on to state that without her husband and her family’s support, she likely would have to terminate her pregnancy.
“The sad reality is I was simply lucky enough to have the support of my husband and my family for whatever decision I chose. And I am grateful. But not every woman sadly has this opportunity. It was my choice to have my kid,” Lopez said.
Politicians and legal experts have expressed concern over the potential end of Roe, which could set a precedent for other constitutional rights to be stripped. Seventh College sophomore Kida Bradley, who spoke at both protests, pointed to the precarious standing of the Fourteenth Amendment following the opinion.
“The people sitting there and getting rid of Roe v. Wade will sit there and dismantle the Fourteenth Amendment,” Bradley said. “The Fourteenth Amendment is what allowed me, an African-American to be a citizen and it allowed gay marriage and it allowed all kinds of marriages. These kinds of things are important. They are what made our lives matter. These are the moments that define who we are and what we wanna do with ourselves.”
The draft opinion, authored by Justice Samuel Alito asserts that, “ It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.” However, many across the country are worried that the overturning of the case will cast doubt on the use of contraceptives as well as other rights granted by the Fourteenth Amendment, which Roe largely relied upon.
Bradley also touched on the importance of providing financial support to women in an effort to lower abortion rates. While the protests were not met with any opposition, Bradley encouraged pro-life supporters to focus their anti-abortion efforts on lowering abortion rates instead, by advocating for reform of the foster care system, pushing law-makers to write maternity leave laws, improving sexual education curriculums accross the nation, as well as advocating for better maternal healthcare which tends to disproportionately affect women of color.
According to the National Library of Medicine, Black women are two to six times more likely to die from pregnancy complications than white women, with many of the deaths thought to be preventable. World renowned tennis-player, Serena Williams recently highlighted this issue as she almost joined the statistic herself. Williams escaped a near-death experience after child-birth, due to medical staff neglecting her needs.
Many of the speakers as well as new ones returned on Tuesday for a second round of the protest, which had a larger turnout and concluded with a march encircling much of campus.
Sparky Mitra, an Earl Warren College sophomore, condemned UCSD and UC Regents for failing to issue a statement and take action against pro-life institutions.
“Today our job is to take action, march with us to demand a statement from the chancellor and the UC Regents,” Mitra said. “Help us demand that the university divest from any medical providers who are pro-life. What’s the point of working with providers who can’t give us medical care?”
Californians are granted the right to an abortion under state laws. Governor Gavin Newsom announced a new spending proposal this week that will help pay for abortions for women unable to afford them. This is in preparation for a potential surge of women coming to California from other states seeking reproductive care. If Roe is terminated, there are 13 states that will ban abortion immediately.
Demonstrators also called on Congress to codify the right to abortion rather than relying on the court’s decision. However, on Wednesday, May 11, the Senate failed to garner enough votes to pass The Women’s Health Protection Act which would have nullified six-week and 20-week abortion bans, in addition to other state-level provisions. The vote fell largely along party lines, with senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia being the only democrat to vote against the bill.
Without the passing of the bill, the weight lies on the supreme court to decide if they will strike down Roe v. Wade, leaving abortion legislation up to the states. The leaked opinion is not the final ruling of the court. Justices can and do change their votes and opinions up to the last days before the release of a ruling. The court generally unveils its decisions in mid-June.
To read the full court opinion click here.
Photo by Mila De La Torre for The UCSD Guardian and Joe Orellana.