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Less than 16 hours after news broke of a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, over 100 students gathered on Cross Campus to rally in support of the landmark abortion decision.

The student rally comes in response to a draft majority opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, obtained by Politico and released last Monday evening. Should the court’s holding become final, it would overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1973 and 1992 decisions which have guaranteed and maintained federal constitutional protections of abortion rights.

“I had just got back from Spring Fling, and then one of my friends got the news alert on their phone, and was like, ‘Roe v. Wade might get overturned.’” said Tigerlily Hopson ’25, who co-organized the Tuesday protest and is also a staff reporter for the News. “It was so disorienting, because it had been such a long day. We were just kind of like, ‘What is going on?’” 

In the days since, students have gathered to protest the draft decision, with major student actions on Tuesday and Thursday.

The Supreme Court had been set to decide on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health by this summer, and the early draft leak is virtually unprecedented. Politico reported on Monday that four other Republican-appointed judges had voted with Justice Samuel Alito, who authored the opinion, although justices occasionally change their decisions as drafts circulate. 

But if the court’s alignment does not shift and the opinion is adopted, it will rule in favor of Mississippi in the state’s attempted ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The ruling would knock down the federal foundation of legal abortion in the United States, likely prompting 26 U.S. states to ban abortion, including several that have already passed “trigger laws” automatically banning abortion in the absence of Roe. 

Alito’s opinion describes Roe as “egregiously wrong from the start,” arguing that the 1973 ruling guarantees a right that is not explicitly included in the Constitution. The opinion also decries the reasoning behind Roe as “exceptionally weak,” framing it as a constitutionally irrelevant attempt to take the legality of abortion out of the hands of the political branches of government. 

As the news broke on Monday, Hopson began texting her friend, Elaine Cheng ’25, who came over to her room in her pajamas. After watching videos of protests already beginning in Washington, D.C., they started looking to see if Yale groups had organized any similar protests. Unable to find any, they began contacting other friends to plan their own. 

“We didn’t care who organized the protest, someone just needed to do something, we needed to respond to the news immediately,” Cheng told the News. “The organizing process was intense and personally very daunting, but I kept in mind the whole time that this was just about us bringing our genuine selves and our friends and our classmates to protest this egregious violation of our rights and freedoms as Americans. So many people were willing to help us, lend megaphones, speak at the protest, help make signs, help organize, help outreach.” 

The protest felt especially relevant given Yale’s historical ties to the Supreme Court, co-organizer Ariel Kim ’25 told the News. Four of the current nine justices attended Yale Law School, while one — Brett Kavanaugh ’87 LAW ’90 — attended Yale College. 

“We do have a lot of eyes on us,” Hopson agreed. “It kind of does feel like we’re intimately involved, especially as Yale students, so it was very clear to me that there had to be a demonstration… Obviously, it’s finals. I didn’t want it to be me, I’d be very happy if someone else did it and I just went, but it was just very clear that there had to be some immediate response, specifically from Yale.” 

During the protest, speakers made statements outside Sterling Memorial Library before leading students on a march to the New Haven Green and back to Cross Campus. Organizers led students in chants, and several spoke about their personal investment in reproductive justice. 

Associate professor of sociology Rene Almeling, who teaches a course titled Politics of Reproduction, also joined to give a speech at what Cheng said was “extremely short notice.”

“I wish I wasn’t here today,” Almeling said at the event. “I wish I didn’t have to be here today, delivering this lesson again. The only good thing about being here is seeing all of you gathered here today… If you sat in my class, you would have heard the history lesson I teach, and it’s a history lesson that is about to become our present. When states ban abortion, it does not stop abortion. When states ban abortion, people who are pregnant and do not want to be will try to end their pregnancy by whatever means they have available.”

The deaths of pregnant people due to unsafe abortions in the pre-Roe era, Almeling said, was a public health concern and a “preventable pandemic.”

Almeling added that the language of “choice and life,” was thus insufficient in the discussion surrounding access to abortion and contraception, calling on students to continue to protest, contact their elected representatives and do everything in their power to “turn reproductive justice in the other direction.” 

Although Kim said it had been a scramble to organize the protest so quickly, the cause felt urgent to ensure that students on campus understood both the immediate importance of the issue and that they were in a supportive community on Yale’s campus. 

Along with students from 21 other universities, Yale students participated in a reproductive freedom protest on Thursday at 5 p.m., marching from the Sterling steps to the New Haven courthouse. Through the nationwide protest, students sought to voice their support for Roe and publicly oppose the possibility of the case being overturned. 

Kim emphasized the emotional strain that the threat to Roe has taken on her and many others — especially women and non-binary students.

“It was just this feeling of fear,” Kim said. “And a little bit like we’re being cornered … So we want to make sure that we were there and make sure that [non-men] knew they were loved and that we care.” 

Cheng told the News that attending the protest event left her feeling less hopeless than she had been before.

“We all came together because we were sad, disappointed and angry, and I was surprised to leave the protest energized and hopeful,” Cheng said. “I didn’t quite expect that, but it was magical. Maybe it was because we realized that we weren’t sad, angry and disappointed alone. We were together.” 

Mona Chen ’25, who attended the event, said that her primary reaction to the news of the leaked draft had been shock, and told the News that at first she imagined those around her from the U.S. felt stronger emotions than she did as an international student.  

Now, Chen said, she felt like “less of an outsider,” experiencing a combination of anger and hope that this moment will help carry the movement for reproductive rights forward.

Hopson concurred, noting the importance of this moment in time, before Roe is officially overturned.  

“If I think about it too hard, I definitely feel really sad, ” Hopson said. “But there is still this brief window where we can at least express our outrage. We have this chance to rally people and call our representatives and really try to make our voices heard, at least in some sort of capacity. It still doesn’t look great. It’s really not looking too good, but I think there is a small shimmer of hope, or at least a feeling that we all just have got to do everything that we can.” 

According to a 2019 Pew Research Center poll, about 7 in 10 Americans oppose the overturning of Roe v. Wade. 

LUCY HODGMAN
Lucy Hodgman covers Student Life. She previously covered the Yale College Council for the News. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, she is a sophomore in Grace Hopper majoring in English.