The crowds outside the U.S. Supreme Court were thick with demonstrators in the hours after the court announced its decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion rights ruling. Among those protesting the ruling were high school students exercising their civic education skills.
Many said they were indignant about the decision, and that they believed that their generation needs to speak up for the right to safe and legal abortion.
“I think having the right to have an abortion is very important for everyone,” said one of the young protesters, Nina Paul, a 16-year-old high school student from Montgomery County, Md. “I think it’s crazy that they decided to take that away from us.”
Nina found out about the decision on Instagram, and called her cousin, Amanda Michaud, to head to Capitol Hill. She said it’s important for young people to speak up, because this issue often affects young women in high school.
“They have to be mothers and they will not have time to do school,” she said. “They will have to put away their opportunities to focus on the child they are forced to have.”
While fewer young people were among the crowds cheering in support of the court’s ruling on this afternoon, around the country, other young activists welcomed the dismantling of abortion rights. One of them was Alivia Grace Talley, a junior at Clemson University and student spokesperson for Students for Life of America, a pro-life group.
“As someone who’s been working in the pro-life movement for a while now, it’s just crazy to think, this day actually happened,” she told a reporter. “It’s just a very historical moment. And I think moving forward, the biggest steps are going to be first talking with women and making sure that they know of all the resources available to them in a post-Roe America—and one of those being their Title IX rights as pregnant and parenting students.”
Court’s ruling is ‘horrifying,’ protesters say
Back at the Supreme Court, Sonia and Lilia Oulamine, 16 and 13, respectively, found out the news from their mom this morning and headed to the Supreme Court, because they said they believe in the power of young people using their voice. They stood at the edge of the gathering, with Lilia holding up a sign saying “My Body, My Choice.”
“We had to come here because it’s our job to advocate for our future generations, and to show them that we won’t go quietly back to what used to happen,” Sonia said. “As we continue down the time with our generation, it’s our job to make it clear to them that when we are in power, we’re going to change things and it’s not up to them, the people who are just sitting in court, to decide what’s going to happen for millions of people nationwide.”
Two other teenagers in the crowd happened to be in town when they heard the news. Sixteen-year-olds Hannah Cohen and Simran Buch, who were visiting from New York and New Jersey respectively, made their way to the Supreme Court to join the crowds.
“I’m very big on women’s health and women’s right—and not just women, gender-fluid people—and I thought it was very important for me to come to help with the cause,” Simran said. “I mean, it’s just absolutely horrifying.”
“We need to focus on the upcoming elections,” Hannah said. “Now because it’s up to the states, we need to really focus on getting the people who make the best decisions [elected].”
The Cunningham family was visiting from St. Louis, Mo., when they heard about the ruling and the demonstrations at the hotel they were staying at.
It’s important for younger people to speak up, said Andrew Cunningham, 15, who was attending to protest with his parents and sister. Speaking up and spreading awareness within their communities is one way the younger generation can help, he said.
The Cunningham’s neighborhood in St. Louis has a Planned Parenthood facility—part of a national organization that offers abortion services—with protesters outside it advocating for abortion bans daily, Andrew’s father, David Cunningham, said.
“There’s been pro-life protesters that have been there like 24/7 for as long as we’ve lived there,” he said. “And so we’ve kind of been exposed to that side for a long time and now we have a different thing to mobilize around.”
A few parents brought their young kids, some in strollers, to the court’s doorstep to demonstrate the importance of civic engagement.
“I brought my girls because I think it’s important for them to participate in democracy, but also their fundamental rights might not be around that were there for me and my mom,” said Nadia Brown, who brought her three daughters aged 6, 5, and 3, to protest the ruling.
“I want them to witness history, to be a part of history,” she said, “but then to see if they hopefully one day can put pressure on the Supreme Court, the Congress, and state legislatures to do something to codify Roe.”
Sarah D. Sparks, Assistant Editor contributed to this article.