“It kind of felt like a slap in the face,” said Sam Matsumoto, a film photography teacher at Berkeley High School (BHS) as she shared her opinion on the pending overturning of Roe v. Wade. “I’ve grown up my whole life only knowing the post-Roe world, so it’s never really been a question to me that [abortion] would be accessible to pregnant people, that they would be able to access safe and legal abortion, if that’s what they choose to do.”
The federal right to abortion is once again being discussed in the United States Supreme Court, and a draft ruling written by Justice Samuel Alito and leaked by unidentified sources indicates the court wants to return abortion to the control of individual states.
Alito wrote, “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.”
Matsumoto and Sierra Ott, a sophomore in Berkeley International High School (BIHS), both agree that Alito’s statement lacks basis.
During the over 200 year history of the United States, the Constitution has seen many amendments, being modified to better fit a growing, learning country.
Matsumoto said, “[Alito’s argument is] laughable and ridiculous. … Of course there are other things not clearly specified in the Constitution. … The meaning is that people should have autonomy over their bodies.”
Ott decided to take action. “I heard about this protest from a friend that wanted to do something. … [Overturning Roe v. Wade] is a big deal, that’s really not okay,” Ott said. “Safe abortion should be a basic human right and that them trying to overturn that is really messed up. … As a girl, I feel that this could affect me in the future.”
BHS students share these sentiments. On May 12, during lunch, students held a protest against the pending draft ruling, wearing red clothing in solidarity.
Just a few minutes after the lunch bell rang, about 60 people had settled on the lawn to listen to their peers stand up and share speeches, chants, and poems about coming together in protest.
Freshman Ruby Nichols helped organize the event, which was put together by the Universal Ninth Grade (U9) student leadership, led by Ariana Yerovam.
Yerovam explained that they went to a protest in Oakland with a friend a couple days earlier, and were inspired to help spread word about the protest over social media.
“On the way back she said, ‘Maybe we should do one of those for Berkeley High,’ and I said, ‘Hell yeah,’ ” Nichols said. “We need to do this. We need to fight for something.”
Julia Segre, a freshman at BHS, was one student who stepped up to speak.
Segre read a poem she wrote shortly after the news about the draft ruling aired, and her voice rang into the loudspeaker as she said, “We’re always running; running for our lives, running for an answer, running out of time,” explaining that her generation always has something to fear.
“We are standing on a thousand bodies slain … on a thousand words of wisdom and a thousand more of ignorance,” Segre said, expressing the burden placed on the shoulders of young people to handle their elders’ issues.
After the lunchtime protest, students were invited to return to their classes carrying signs from the protest with messages in support.
Ott wanted students to remember: “You can make change by going to protests and spreading information if you can, telling your friends, and by voting.”