Students advocate for reproductive justice in walkout

Maeve Goldman and Rachel Baez

During break on Thursday, students and faculty gathered on Alumni Field in a walkout for reproductive justice organized by Louise Kim (11). Student speakers protested the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade and emphasized the importance of universal access to abortion.

The walkout emphasized how the struggle for reproductive rights affects all members of the school community, Kim said. “It can be very isolating for students to deal with big and grave issues alone.” The walkout aimed to reaffirm a sense of community to ease some of the pain and burden students may feel due to abortion restrictions, they said.

“As a woman, hearing stories and speeches from other women was really important for me,” Gisele Mitchell (11) said. “Continuing to educate and share personal opinions and stories makes a really big impact because as corny as it sounds, we all need to know that we are the future.”

“Don’t ban abortion for everyone when only some people disagree with it,” Kira Lewis (9) said in her speech at the walkout. “When someone wants an abortion, regardless of your personal opinion, you have to trust their decision- making skills and understand that they know what they need. You do not need to make their decisions and the government shouldn’t either.”

Kim hopes the walkout will encourage members of the community to join the fight for reproductive justice in any way possible, she said. In their ending speech, she issued a call to action for students and faculty to donate to abortion funds, register to vote, contact representatives, and spread awareness about abortion resources such as abortion pills that individuals in restricted states can utilize.

Although the walkout was a step in the right direction, it highlighted how much the school still has to grow before it sufficiently supports people with uteruses, Mitchell said. Some boys played a game of Spikeball right next to the walkout, completely oblivious to the people protesting the potential loss of many students and faculty members’ bodily autonomy, she said. “They needed to go inside and read the field,” she said. Mitchell was also disappointed with the lack of male teachers at the walkout as teachers are crucial in setting a precedent that the student body follows, she said.

After the walkout, the Office for Identity, Culture, and Institutional Equity (ICIE) hosted talkback sessions D and E periods to serve as a more personal and intimate space for students to share feelings and ideas, Kim said. 

Kim started planning the walkout shortly after the Supreme Court opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked on May 2, they said. “I felt a lot of outrage from students and members of the community because of the leaked draft opinion,” they said. “I noticed that there was no space where community members could come together physically in support and solidarity.”

In planning the walkout, Kim used their experience organizing a Middle Division walkout for gun control after the Parkland shooting in 2018, they said. She gathered input from their peers on how best to plan the walkout, then communicated with the school administration so that Head of Upper Division Dr. Jessica Levenstein and Dean of Students Michael Dalo could help ensure the walkout ran as smoothly as possible, she said. “Where youth voices are often erased in the greater conversation of advocacy, the school gives students the space where the same voices suppressed elsewhere are uplifted and amplified here.”

Celia Stafford (10) appreciated that the walkout handled the abortion battle in a serious manner, in contrast to pro-choice arguments that detract the movement, she said. “It reminded me to educate more people, including men, about abortion rights in the right way,” she said. The walkout also reminded students of their ability to initiate change in the community around them, Stafford said. “I feel understood, empowered, and part of a community that cares.”