Giving Compass' Take:
- In states where abortion is outlawed, college students across institutions are speaking out against bans on abortion, the critical need for sex education, and access to contraception.
- How can donors support youth-led activism for reproductive rights and justice?
- Read more about reproductive justice here.
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The students looked as if they could be getting ready for a Harry Styles concert, sprawled out across the carpet in the University of South Dakota’s student center. Early 2000s pop music flowed as they spent the evening hunched over poster boards and deconstructed cardboard boxes, chatting, shaking paint pens and passing around bags of plastic gemstones and faux flowers.
But a closer look through the rhinestones and bright paint revealed fury, not fandom. Their signs read, “You cut off my reproductive rights, should we cut off yours?” and “The hardest decision a person can make isn’t yours.”
Preparing for a march across campus to protest the recent Supreme Court decision that triggered a near-total abortion ban in their state, the students encouraged one another to avoid the use of gendered language for people who get abortions and think carefully before using images like clothes hangers on their signs.
While they worked, Lexi McKee-Hemenway — wearing cargo pants, a tank top and sparkly silver eye shadow — made her way through the group with a spiral notebook, seeking fellow students who wanted to take leadership roles in the university’s Students for Reproductive Rights group, which she said has roughly doubled in size, to 30 members, since last year.
McKee-Hemenway, the group’s president, is among college students across the country who are frantically advocating for changes in policy and laws to make abortion legal again, while also trying to help those who may need an abortion in the meantime. Working on both goals at the same time can be daunting.
“That’s all very scary, it’s very dystopian,” McKee-Hemenway said. “There are still resources, and there are people that will help them get those resources. It is hard, but we will make it happen.”
South Dakota is one of 14 states that have banned abortions with few exceptions as of late September; like South Dakota, most had “trigger laws” designed to take effect once the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. A number of other states’ bans are still being contested in state courts.
South Dakota’s law, passed in 2005, is among the most rigid in the country, prohibiting abortion procedures, abortion pill prescriptions even by telemedicine and allowing no exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. Since then, two attempts to ban abortion by amending the state constitution have been made; both failed, but about 45 percent of voters supported them.
Read the full article about student activism by Olivia Sanchez at The Hechinger Report.