A group of about 100 abortion rights advocates marched around the Stony Brook University campus and delivered speeches on May 5 in protest of the leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion that could overturn Roe v. Wade.
The crowd of students and faculty members marched for 12 minutes from the Administration Building to the Student Union, stopping in front of the Student Activities Center and Staller Steps. Eight police officers accompanied the protestors, and a handful of students joined the march as it passed them.
Organizers passed out signs reading “Bans off our bodies” and “I stand with Planned Parenthood.” Protestors chanted “my body, my choice” throughout the march.
The event was led by the campus chapters of Planned Parenthood Generation Action, Young Democratic Socialists of America, College Democrats and the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Alliance (LGBTA). The groups share a server on the social media platform Discord, where the idea originated.
The rally began at 1 p.m. at the fountain in front of the Humanities building, with speeches from three student leaders: Planned Parenthood president Cristal Norton, College Democrats secretary Sowad Ocean Karim and LGBTA representative Seth Jakob Jochum-Fuchs. Ten students also spoke during an open floor discussion.
“We wanted to have our voices be heard,” Norton, a sophomore nursing and psychology major, said. “For some of us, going to the city is scary because those rallies tend to be more violent. We wanted to throw something together to allow students to have their voices be heard. Even though things are going to be protected in New York, we do have students from out of state who will go home and their rights will be stripped of them.”
There was little to no opposition present at the protest, as students passing by the group either kept quiet or cheered along. Still, Vice President for Student Affairs Rick Gatteau organized a police presence to ensure students’ safety.
“We have a big relationship between Student Affairs and our University Police, because our most important role is to protect the freedom of speech of every student,” Gatteau said. “We are an open forum for conversation and dialogue. The leaked report from the Supreme Court is obviously something that is concerning to many of our students.”
On May 2, Politico leaked a Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that currently makes banning abortions unconstitutional. Reversing the decision would allow 13 “trigger states” — those with laws explicitly stating they would outlaw abortion if the Court allowed it — to amend their legislation.
Norton said the idea for the protest began hours after the Politico article was released.
The event’s speakers expressed fear at what they called a lack of control over their bodies and asked students to ensure they were registered to vote in November.
Members of the crowd were also given the opportunity to give speeches with a megaphone. One woman recounted how having an abortion “saved my life,” and another compared the Supreme Court opinion to fascism.
Many attendees learned about the event through Instagram and said they told their friends to join them.
“We’re very angry about this,” sophomore political science major Sam Allen said. “We’re very scared for a lot of women and just people in general who have uteruses. We’re here protesting, hoping that it’s not too late to change [the Court’s] minds.”
Organizers passed around copies of an open letter addressed to University President Maurie McInnis requesting free, easy access to contraception for students. According to Karim, contraceptives are available for a fee at vending machines or by asking friends. However, some residential buildings and other campus locations currently offer free contraceptives.
“We do want support from the University to offer contraceptives in a free manner instead of a vending machine or asking people, because that can be scary or alienating,” Norton said.
Half of the crowd dispersed after the march, but some remained to continue giving speeches and pass around petitions.
“I think it was a success,” Karim said. “[It was] to make sure that people at Stony Brook University itself are … able to make sure that their voices, their concerns, are being expressed. By having that conversation and all those voices united together, it bolsters everyone’s stance on abortion. [The students] were just so passionate about this overall.”