Students rally for reproductive rights ahead of midterm elections

Just before the midterm elections, dozens of students rallied outside Geisel Library on Friday, Oct. 28 in support of Proposition 1, which would amend the California State Constitution to codify abortion rights. In addition to a handful of student speakers, the event featured California Democratic Party Chairman Rusty Hicks, California Secretary of State Dr. Shirley Weber, and Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.) reflecting the importance of the issue to various levels of government.

The rally, part of a statewide effort, aimed to increase voter turnout and educate California students about the importance of taking action to protect reproductive rights. Unlike the all-student reproductive rights rally that took place on campus last spring amid leaked Supreme Court opposition to Roe v. Wade, this rally was organized directly with the California Democratic Party. Colleges across the state, including five other UC campuses, are scheduled to hold affiliate rallies between Oct. 28 and Nov. 7.

A “yes” vote on Prop 1 would allow abortion and contraception rights to be specifically enshrined in the state constitution, adding another layer of protection to California’s reproductive rights.

Before the speakers addressed the crowd, students lined up for free T-shirts, bags and stickers provided by Planned Parenthood and the California Democratic Party. Advocates chatted with those in line, passed out an email sign-up sheet, and answered any questions attendees had about voting and Proposition 1.

The rally was opened by Earl Warren College junior Sparky Mitra, one of the student organizers of the rally, who spoke briefly about her experiences in Texas, a state that severely restricts the reproductive rights of its citizens.

“The consequences of silence are no longer just on the horizon,” Mitra said. “They are here. My brothers, sisters and cousins ​​in my home state of Texas have already seen their rights. Choice has become too expensive under statewide bullies. This proposal will ensure that our choice to access reproductive health care remains free and fair.”

Although California has already made strides on reproductive rights — most health care facilities provide abortion care, and all campuses of the University of California and California State University plan to offer abortion pills by January 2023 — Proposition 1 would further enshrine that right.

In an interview before the rally, Mitra explained that further strengthening abortion rights in California not only helps those who live in the state, but also those in other parts of the country, as many travel to California to access safe and legal abortion. care.

“It has to be an unshakable reality that abortion care will be available to anyone who comes to California, no matter where they’re from, no matter how long they’ve been here, whether they’re a student, whether they’re a parent, [or] if they are undocumented.” Mitra said.

Student volunteers led chants of phrases such as “My body, my choice” and “A people united will never be divided. Their voices echoed down Library Walk and drew a larger crowd as the rally continued.

Weber talked about how her experience growing up as the daughter of sharecroppers in Hope, Arkansas helped her understand the importance of voting.

“Our democracy is fragile, it’s in danger,” Weber said. “Now is your moment as a student… and the question is, what will your children say in 30 or 40 years about what you did at this moment? Will they say you did it, that you stood up and preserved the freedom and justice we desire and deserve? Or will they say… that they talked about things they could have changed and chose not to?

As more students filled the spaces outside of Geisel during Weber’s speech, student leaders handed out posters reading “abortion is health care” and “safe + legal abortion = pro life” to hold.

Among the student speakers was Becca Levinsohn, a junior at Eleanor Roosevelt College, who addressed the crowd on behalf of Planned Parenthood Generation Action, a campus organization that advocates for access to sexual and reproductive care. Other speakers included Hicks and Scott Peters, both emphasizing strength in numbers and perseverance.

“We have to win the election. Let’s start Prop 1 like they did in Kansas [and] like they did in Michigan,” Peters said. “Let’s protect our home here.” Let’s pass Prop 1 and enshrine that right here in the Constitution, and then let’s win the national election back.”

Mitra formally ended the assembly by reminding students to vote in the upcoming semesters and pointing out where students can vote on campus.

Election Day is Nov. 8, and there is a drop-off box on campus in front of the Price Center where voters can drop off their signed and sealed ballots. The Geisel Library will also host a voting center in the Seuss Room where voters can drop off and return ballots by mail from Oct. 29 through Election Day. Hours of operation are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. until November 7 and 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.

Editor’s note: Event organizer Sparky Mitra is also the opinion editor for The UCSD Guardian; had no part in the production or publication of this article.

Photo by Kathleen Shiroma for the UCSD Guardian

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