Women’s Center organizes solidarity rally for Roe v. Wade

Rally on campus opens space for sharing anger and grief on US ruling

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Roughly 35 students sit on the grassy hill at the SFU Burnaby Campus. They are collected, smiling for the camera. They hold signs that read, “No Bans,” Reproductive Justice for all,” “Reproductive Rights are human rights,” and more.
The rally took place around the Burnaby campus from Convocation Mall to Cornerstone. PHOTO: Pranjali J Mann / The Peak

By: Pranjali J Mann, News Writer

On July 13, the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) Women’s Center organized Bans Off Our Bodies, a solidarity rally in the wake of  the US Supreme Court’s (SCOTUS) verdict to overturn Roe v. Wade. The verdict overturned this precedent set in 1973 which constitutionally protected the right to abortions in the US.

This rally stood in support for those who do not have access to safe and legal abortions worldwide. It ran from 11:30 p.m.–1:00 p.m., followed by refreshments and food at the Women’s Center in the Student Union Building (SUB). 

Nimrit Basra, Women’s Center Collective Council representative, opened the march by saying SCOTUS’ decision “is steeped in gendered, economic, and racialized oppression, and those from historically excluded and marginalized communities will face the brunt of this oppressive legislation.” 

As mentioned in the rally’s press release, 24 countries completely prohibit abortion and over 90 countries only allow abortion in case of health risk to the mother or medical complications.

The rally route began at Convocation Mall and marched throughout the campus until ending at the Terry Fox statue at the Reflection Pond. This was accompanied by march chants such as, “Our body, our choice.” 

Various community organizers and student led committee heads gave speeches at the end of the rally. This included a speech from SFSS president Helen Sofia Pahou. She noted prejudices on abortions “got us a male-dominated and patriarchal-infused stack of US Supreme Court justices who cannot separate their politics from the goodwill of accessing safe and legal abortions.”

She emphasized the overturning of Roe v. Wade is a “systematic oppression and invasion against the bodies, the rights, the choices [ . . . ] perpetuated by the state.” 

She continued, “The SFSS upholds the precedence in our issues policies that support anyone seeking access to abortion and their reproductive rights and condemns any entity that chooses to intimidate anyone from utilizing their rights. Anyone who enters our SUB building and goes to our Women’s Centre in need of safe space — please know that you are always welcomed.” 

Nebula Shen, a Board member of Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group and member of the Out on Campus collective, discussed the importance of having bodily autonomy. Critiquing current policies in place, they stated, “Colonially known as BC, Canada, there are politicians in this province who are against abortion [ . . . ] But it’s not OK for them to ever force that on anyone else’s body.”

Allyson Soriano, organizer for SFU350, laid a direct link between climate change and reproductive justice. She asked, “What does it mean if anyone with a uterus will be forced to bear [a] child when we are experiencing unprecedented heatwaves, floods, landslides, and forest fires?” She added, “Indigenous, Black, and brown peoples’ homes are being used as sites for dumping toxic waste. Many Indigenous communities across Turtle Island still live without access to clean running water [ . . . ] Are these the conditions that we should be raising children in?” 

To find out more on the organization of the rally, The Peak interviewed Basra from the Women’s Centre. 

She shared the planning and creation of the rally started in late May. “There was unanimous support [ . . . ] every single committee in our collective stepped up and did their part [ . . . ] because we were frustrated and we were upset, and we had to channel that frustration into something.” She quoted Mariame Kaba: “Let this radicalize you rather than lead you to despair.”

Basra was inspired and grateful to see the turnout and support from attendees in creating a space with shared solidarity. She reported 50 people attended the rally. 

Highlighting the goals of the initiative, she noted that while the issue seems distant from home, it is present for people around the world, “including here at home.” Through the rally, they aimed “to really give folks a space to channel their passion and their anger and their hurt.” 

She added, “Even during our speeches, it was a circle. It was really important to us that everybody was looking at each other and everybody was able to see each other and hold that space with each other.” 

Through this solidarity rally, she hoped to signify that people are “not alone in this fight, and they’re not alone in how they’re feeling right now.

“This is something that is worth fighting for, and it’s something we need to fight for, not only for ourselves, but for others as well,” she said

Basra reiterated this is a collective and ongoing effort. She noted events and information sessions will be held moving forward. “This is something that we’re going to be working on and fighting for and keeping the momentum going.”