Nicole Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer

The Yale chapter of the Medical Students for Choice organization rallied Saturday in support of the protection of reproductive care, as the Supreme Court seems poised to dismantle Roe v. Wade nearly a half-century after it was first decided.

On Jan. 22, the 49th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, first-year medical students and co-leaders of Medical Students for Choice Siddhi Nadkarni MED ’25 and Kate Callahan MED ’25 gathered fellow organizers, students and faculty members on the green outside of Cafe Med to call for the provision of reproductive care. Medical Students for Choice, a national organization, has chapters at medical schools across the country and seeks to raise awareness about abortion and reproductive healthcare.

“Although it was originally founded to raise awareness during a time when abortion wasn’t taught in the medical curriculum, Medical Students for Choice has expanded its reach in recent years,” Nadkarni said. “Something [Callahan] and I are passionate about for our chapter is thinking holistically about how reproductive justice intersects with racism, public health and gender issues.”

At the center of the event were three speakers, including physicians at Yale New Haven Health and local community activists. 

Nancy Stanwood, section chief of family planning and associate professor at the medical school, said that her ability to provide “compassionate” reproductive care was integral to her role as a physician. 

“I live out my values every day as a doctor by providing abortion care to my patients when they need it, how they need it, centered on their reproductive lives and their hopes and dreams,” Stanwood said. “Abortion care is healthcare. It is critically important for people to be able to direct their lives and dream and live and thrive.”

Stanwood also addressed the physicians and future physicians in the crowd, highlighting the new challenges they will face if Roe v. Wade is overturned, which she believes will happen soon. According to Stanwood, as medical students go out into the world and serve patients across the country — some of them in states where abortion may soon be illegal — they may come face to face with laws that punish providers and anyone else involved in providing abortions to patients. Stanwood encouraged the assembled crowd of medical students to “be brave” and keep fighting for reproductive rights.

The Supreme Court is set to decide by this summer on Mississippi’s abortion law in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health by this summer. Given the current conservative majority in the Court, Stanwood and many others believe that this decision will overturn Roe v. Wade, essentially knocking down the foundation of legalized abortion in the U.S.

Liz Gustafson, state director of Pro-Choice Connecticut, also spoke on the day about her personal experience with abortion and how both legislation and societal perceptions of abortion should change. 

“My decision to have an abortion was not a difficult one; Being pregnant when I did not want to be was,” Gustafson said. “Abortion is not merely a concept or debate topic. It is healthcare. It is freedom. It is normal. And our stories deserve to be respected and heard.”

Gustafson continued, saying that even the protection of Roe v. Wade is not enough. She highlighted the fact that systemic racism, economic injustice, documentation status and the criminalization of pregnancy outcomes over the past 49 years have kept abortion access out of reach for people of color and other marginalized groups. In response, she argued, states like Connecticut must continue to fight for public policy changes and work to destigmatize abortion.

Last to speak at the rally was Complex Family Planning Fellow Blythe Bynum, who was raised in Mississippi, a state with some of the most aggressive anti-abortion laws in the country. During her speech, Bynum described the difficulty of growing up and receiving her medical training in a state that openly challenges Roe v. Wade. However, it was these experiences that pushed her to become a provider who advocates for her patients and their bodily autonomy.

“To be a clinician these days honestly is to be an activist. It’s unavoidable,” Bynum said. “If my patient comes to me and tells me they don’t want to be pregnant, I’m there to make them unpregnant. And that’s because I trust my patients. This is the same trust that legislators should have in their constituents.”

The rally also raised money for the Lilith Fund, the oldest abortion fund in Texas, and Pro-Choice Connecticut, a grassroots organization dedicated to pro-choice advocacy. By supporting organizations like these, Nadkarni and Callahan hope to help change the future of reproductive rights in the US.

In 2019, over 600,000 legally induced abortions in the United States were reported to the CDC.

Veronica Lee covers breakthrough research for SciTech. She is a sophomore in Branford College majoring in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology.