On Wednesday, September 28, Paola Bedolla Garcia, a senior in Berkeley International High School (BIHS), together with the Berkeley High School Teen Reproductive Justice Club, organized and led a schoolwide reproductive rights protest.
Garcia said her initial motivation to hold the protest was based on fears that abortion restrictions provided.
“I have a little sister, and a lot of people on the news that had to go to other states for abortions were either younger than her or her age and that’s really terrifying for me,” Garcia said. “I wanted to do at least something to speak out. … It felt like the best response for me personally.”
The event was publicized throughout school by use of flyers, social media, and through the student bulletin. The announcements informed students to meet at 10 a.m. at the C building steps and to then collectively proceed to Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park. The flyers also listed several organizations that relate to the cause and could be used for additional information or involvement. The organizations include Planned Parenthood, Center for Reproductive Rights, National Organization for Women, URGE, and National Women’s Health Network.
The flyers read, “In response to the overturn of Roe v. Wade, join us to speak your mind about what this decision means to you and those you love. We will organize in support of reproductive justice and people’s bodily autonomy.”
Approximately 80 students were in attendance. A diverse selection of students from all grades attended, as well as numerous Teen Reproductive Justice’s own members. The group migrated to Civic Center Park while chanting, megaphones and signs in hand. At the park, student speakers took the opportunity to share their personal ideas and stories relating to policies regarding reproductive rights.
Among these speakers was BIHS senior, Magnus Wolff.
“The power that the medical industry and politics have on this topic is astonishing to me, it makes me scared seriously for my younger sibling knowing that I can’t help her as her big brother in this circumstance,” Wolff said. He shared how he felt about the impact of overturning Roe v. Wade on his younger sister. “For the forthcoming generations of individuals that this affects, let’s make a change. These policies need change.”
Dahlia Hellerstein, a senior in BIHS, holds similar beliefs regarding the effect of abortion regulations on anyone regardless of their autonomy.
“If you impregnate someone, that is still your child, that is still your responsibility,” Hellerstein said. “If the person you impregnated can’t get an abortion it is still your responsibilty to stay there and help raise that kid. … This isn’t just about people who are dealing with actual abortions, this is about everyone, and it’s everyone’s issue.”
Several speakers also felt passionate about the influence of of Roe v. Wade being overturned on similar laws. Anna Eisen, a BIHS senior, spoke about privacy laws and their relation to abortion rights.
“The reason Roe v. Wade was put into place was so people had the right to privacy to get an abortion,” Eisen said. “By overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court had to say privacy doesn’t matter in a medical sense and in the sense of your personal relationships … so many other laws have been built on this foundation of privacy: gay marriage and the right to interracial marriage and even the right for being gay to not be criminalized at all was based on privacy.”
BHS freshman October Hertenstein similarly stated, “Legalization of same sex marriage and other laws from the same period are in danger. We don’t know what could happen and we don’t know what these people are capable of.”
Following the speakers, protesters gathered in a large circle and were asked to share a word that encompassed their feelings towards the overturning of Roe v. Wade the day they heard the news, and after hearing the speakers. Words shared detailing how they felt the day it was overturned included numb, vulnerable, and disgusted.
“It’s a way to hate on women and people with uteruses,” Garcia said. “It’s not pro anything at all.”