On Thursday afternoon hundreds of UW students left class and flooded Red Square armed with posters, stickers, and no fewer than three megaphones to sound the call to stand up for abortion access.
Students from RiseUp4AbortionRights, Refuse Fascism, Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights, Socialist Alternative, and Students for a Democratic Society took turns hyping up the crowd before they marched through campus in the pouring rain.
Being typically the most sexually active and least financially secure, young people are among the most impacted by abortion laws. According to the CDC, almost two-thirds of abortion patients are women in their 20s. The speakers at the event credited the initial victory of Roe v. Wade to a combination of efforts from the largely youth-led civil rights movement, anti-war movement, and, of course, the women’s movement of the 1960s and ‘70s. One student speaker from Socialist Alternative said the right to an abortion “cannot rely on the benevolence of the courts” or Democrats to codify it into law. Rather, students and working people needed to defend abortion the same way their grandparents won it.
The students suggested mass walkouts like these to disrupt the status quo. Marxists will argue this is especially effective for laborers — you deny enough socially necessary labor and, in theory, the state will give you what you want for the sake of continuing capitalism.
While they don’t have the labor theory of value as clearly on their side, students can cause havoc on their own campuses and effect change more locally. Kels Rizzo, the public policy representative from the UW Student Disability Commission, said that students can improve abortion access rights on their own campus. Regardless of what happens on the federal level, they said students can demand the university “remove barriers, expand access to contraceptives and medication abortion, and enshrine bodily autonomy.”
The students plan to fight the battles on campus and on the federal level concurrently. All next week, Refuse Fascism will host a week of action. On Mother’s Day, organizers at Refuse Fascism will take action at churches. Then Monday through Thursday they’ll hit the schools, which will include participation in a National Student Walk-Out on Thursday. This week of protest will culminate in a demonstration starting on Broadway and Pine on May 14.