Democracy is a Responsibility

Zoey Ocampo-Sobkoviak

This morning, from the steps of the Library of Congress, we could hear chanting and shouts coming from outside the Supreme Court. We were about to meet the Chief of the Office of Art and Archives of the House of Representatives, Farar Elliott. We were excited to meet her and speak to her about her intriguing job. At the same time, the recent leaking of the draft opinion from the Supreme Court regarding the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade was on our minds. We were intrigued by the protest and wanted to be a part of this important event. 

As it happened, our interview with Ms. Elliott was moved to a couple of hours later, so our entire group crossed the street to observe the action. I was excited but a little unsure of what to expect, given that the topic of abortion has been long debated, contested, and is a key issue in the fight for women’s rights.

When we arrived at the stairs of the Supreme Court building, we found a gathering of both supporters and opponents of Roe v. Wade. However, the opponents outnumbered the supporters, which I found alarming. Nevertheless, as our chaperone Chelsea told us afterward when talking about our experience, it is important to hold space for all sides to have their beliefs and to think critically about what it is we believe and will fight for. It was fascinating to see how certain groups that are stereotypically liberal or progressive were waving banners supporting the ban on abortion, while certain groups that are typically seen as more conservative were shouting chants to protect women’s choice. Everywhere I turned it was hard to discern who was arguing what, and people who looked like me did not necessarily hold the same beliefs at that moment as other people who had vastly different backgrounds from mine. 

I joined in with the girls in our group, and eventually I felt the courage to chant and participate. I felt the support of women and others I had never met, and they let us know that they were inspired by our group. I felt gratitude towards the boys in our group who joined us in the protest because I believe that feminism is not just for women. Even though I am passionate about activism and protecting human rights around the world, my introversion initially held me back from letting my voice be heard. After giving myself the space to watch and observe, I joined the protest. I gave thought to the arguments at that moment—as I had done many times before today—so I did not feel that I was blindly rushing into conflict. I chose to follow what I felt was right, to call attention to the serious damage that a ban on abortion would have. Overturning Roe v. Wade could have serious implications not only for women but for anyone who can become pregnant or has to handle an unwanted pregnancy. According to the Center for Disease Control, these implications disproportionately affect people of color and those with fewer economic/ healthcare resources, as Black and Indigenous women are up to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related issues than white women.

With some guidance from our chaperones, we reflected on the high emotions of the moment. An important thing we talked about is that protesting is just one step in making the changes we want to see. Protesting is absolutely essential, and it does well to rally people for a cause, and it has been pivotal in plenty of social, political, and environmental movements. However, protesting needs to be backed up by community organization, changing or creating legislation, and investing resources in active solutions. I am glad to have been a part of this protest because this SCOTUS decision will directly impact my and future generations, and I feel fortunate that I had the space to think critically about the experience.

Cecily Kelly

Waking up this morning on the second day of our interviews in Washington, DC, we were met with a dull, gray, overcast morning, the weather reflecting the dismal mood that women across the country were feeling after the upsetting events of the previous night. The preemptive leak of the monumental decision to overturn Roe vs Wade left women around the country feeling betrayed, heartbroken, and angry.

Some of us thought little of this decision at first. It was just another morning in DC, as we rushed to get out the door, clad in fancy clothes, ready to interview important people. As we made the trek to our first interview at the Library of Congress, we began hearing the faint noises of protesting at the Supreme Court of the United States, located next to the Jefferson Building. When we arrived at the Library, it was apparent that there had been a little mix-up, and Farar Elliott, the curator of the House of Representatives, would not be arriving for at least another hour.

On any other day, this would have been disappointing: the thought of having to sit around in cold weather for another hour would have upset most of us, but today was different. We immediately knew that we wanted to go get involved, to protest in support of our beliefs, and exhibit our First Amendment rights. When I walked over to the protest, I was stunned. I was expecting to see and hear women protesting this abhorrent ruling, screaming chants for their right to choose. Instead, I was met with the opposite: women cheering at the overturning of Roe vs. Wade. I was disgusted. How could these women be excited to lose their rights? How could they be protesting their own right to choose?

After a few moments of taking in this sight, I regrouped with my peers and watched from afar as people cheered over the robbery of my choice. Eventually, a woman from the other side of the protest made her way to us and we followed to join her. We began chanting, “Keep your hands off my body” and “Hey Hey, Ho Ho, your backwards views have got to go.” We chanted in the face of oppression as “progressive Catholics” screamed back at us. This lasted for a while, as we protested for our rights and pro-life protestors inched towards us, forcing us to move backward.

We used our voices to express our beliefs and fight for those who will be more affected by this ruling than we might. When it was time to head to our interview, we were fired up and apprehensive about leaving. We turned away from the crowd, and walked away on the promise that we would be back. 

Grace Timan

I was sitting in the hostel bedroom with all of my friends when I found out about the leaked SCOTUS decision. We were all immediately outraged. Being a group of teenage girls, we felt this on a personal level, this decision being something that has the potential to affect us all individually.

The next day we went to the Supreme Court to protest, one of the most surreal experiences I have ever had. I have been involved in protests in the past, as I planned a Black Lives Matter Protest in June 2020. However, the difference between protesting in Santa Cruz and DC was stark. In Santa Cruz, everyone around you is on the same side, but there in front of the Supreme Court building, it was a mix of opinions. Everyone is passionate, but not everyone agrees with you. It’s hard not to become aggravated by other opinions, but it was important for us to focus on supporting one another and the others around us.

MMS Students on Front page of the New York Times

The scene was really emotional. I saw my best friend crying, and I broke down myself. The precedent that the overturning of Roe v. Wade sets has the potential to take away more than just our rights to abortion, but could also result in bans on birth control and gay marriage. It feels like we are moving backward. These are my rights, this is my body. While protesting, I felt pure desperation. 

On a more positive note, I could feel so much support around me. Many women in the crowd made sure that I and my friends were safe. They were motherly, and they demonstrated the community that fighting for a common cause creates. Being able to look behind me to see my male friends passionately yelling for my right to choose was also touching. Knowing that people care even when an issue doesn’t directly affect their lives added to the feeling of community. 

It felt like I was a part of history today. We were nervous when participating in a DC protest, especially in such a momentous location like today. We only realized the magnitude of what we had experienced until later in the day, when we checked the New York Times and saw our picture on the cover. We then realized just how much impact we as individuals can have. I’m proud to say that I am fighting for this cause.