For reproductive rights: 100 students hold walk out on anniversary of Dobbs decision

Elin Taylor, Isaf Dahi and Abra Ordorica march through Amherst as part of a reproductive rights rally with high school and middle school students from Amherst Regional last Friday afternoon.

Elin Taylor, Isaf Dahi and Abra Ordorica march through Amherst as part of a reproductive rights rally with high school and middle school students from Amherst Regional last Friday afternoon. STAFF PHOTOS/CAROL LOLLIS

Coumba Potter-Ndiaye cheers for a speaker at Friday afternoon’s reproductive rights rally.

Coumba Potter-Ndiaye cheers for a speaker at Friday afternoon’s reproductive rights rally.

Walter Phillips holds a sign at the reproductive rights rally with high school and middle school students from Amherst Regional last Friday afternoon.

Walter Phillips holds a sign at the reproductive rights rally with high school and middle school students from Amherst Regional last Friday afternoon. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 05-28-2024 4:03 PM

Modified: 05-28-2024 7:46 PM


AMHERST — In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion across the country through its Roe v. Wade decision. That same year, Luna Paradis’ mother was born.

Fifty-one years later, Luna Paradis, a seventh grader at Amherst Regional Middle School, said she is living in a world where her right to bodily autonomy is being taken away and a fight is underway to protect her future well-being.

“I don’t want to live in fear, and my mother doesn’t want me to live in fear of not having a choice for myself,” Luna Paradis said, as about 100 middle and high school students gathered on the Town Common during an Amherst Young Feminist Party walkout Friday afternoon in support of reproductive rights.

Two years after a similar walkout that occurred when the leaked Dobbs v. Jackson decision came out, some of the same students were back to continue their battle, including Olive Paradis, Luna’s older sister who is now a ninth grader. Olive Paradis said students are awaiting two decisions from the Supreme Court that could affect access to abortion rights, one related to pregnant patients who are experiencing complications and need emergency abortion care, the other the continued access to the abortion drug mifepristone.

Wearing a T-shirt with “1973” written across it, Olive Paradis recalled her previous participation, adding, “We’re here to stress bodily autonomy.”

Marching to downtown and chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, abortion bans have got to go,” the students also held signs, and then formed a circle on the common. The action comes a month before the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade and turning the legality of abortion over to the states, at which time nationally the Young Feminist Party is organizing a strike for abortion rights. The Amherst chapter, formerly Generation Ratify, is a youth-led organization that promotes gender equality.

Another ninth grader who participated in 2022, Inanna Balkin, said she finds it troubling that the country is moving backward instead of advancing. “I wish I could promise that we won’t go back any farther than we already have,” Balkin said.

Now, Balkin said, judges, rather than doctors, could decide if mifepristone is safe to use. “We have to fight for a safe and healthy world,” Balkin said, adding that she will do so by shouting from the rooftops, which garnered applause.

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Two prominent local leaders came out to speak to the students.

State Rep. Mindy Domb, D-Amherst, said she was happy to accept the invitation to address the students, remarking on the huge turnout, especially that she heard it was senior skip day. “You’re amazing. This is amazing,” Domb said.

Domb pledged to “work like hell” so reproductive rights of the generation are preserved and offered sympathy that times are scary for women and girls, even those in Massachusetts.

“Expect us to be relentless to support your activities and your leadership,” Domb said.

She also advocated for a vote for President Joe Biden as the only person running for the White House standing in the way of an even worse Supreme Court.

Ana Devlin Gauthier, who represents District 5 on the Town Council and serves as its vice president, has helped champion the council’s commitment to reproductive justice.

One way is to ensure that Amherst is a haven for both reproductive health care and gender-affirming care, which the state protects.

“We owe it to the community to protect access these folks have when they are in Massachusetts,” Devlin Gauthier said.

Participants were encouraged to offer their own reflections, taking turns speaking as they had done two years ago, including Zoey Mordecai, an 11th grader, who spoke about how those who are privileged and can travel can continue to get abortion care; while Elena Denno, a ninth grader, said she will continue a commitment for ensuring access to abortions.

The students were greeted by a handful of community supporters as they arrived on the Town Common. Among those was Susan Triolo of Sunderland, a member of Western Massachusetts Code Pink, who was holding a double-sided “Women Will Not Go Back: Abort the Court” and “My Body, My Choice, Hands Off Me” sign, and wearing a button depicting the Supreme Court building with the phrase “this is not a church” written over it.

“I’m here to support the awesome organizers of the walkout from the high school and middle school,” Triolo said. “We’ve been working with the Young Feminists on reproductive rights for the past year.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.