Hundreds of Kenosha Unified high school students walked out of class Thursday morning to demonstrate in support of abortion rights and decry the leaked draft of the U.S. Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade.
Students at Bradford High School, Tremper High School, Indian Trail Academy & High School and Harborside Academy in all grade levels participated in the demonstrations organized by students, many of whom held abortion rights signage and livestreamed the event on social media.
At Bradford, most of the young people rallied on the sidewalks surrounding the school and a few crossed streets to encourage motorists to honk. They chanted “My body. My choice” and “We have rights!”
Bradford junior Alexa Didinski, 16, said she is both angered and saddened by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Knowing about the leaked decision, women’s rights are being taken away literally as we speak right now. I think reproductive rights are human rights. It’s so important that women are granted the medical freedom they need and bodily autonomy,” Didinski said. “We are being restricted from medical access that we all deserve, that women have fought for for hundreds of years.”
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Didinski said she fears what else the nation’s highest court could rule on in coming years.
“I think Roe v. Wade is the first step. Up next they’re coming for contraceptives, birth control, gay marriage, interracial marriage. I think this could all spiral into something worse. Reproductive rights are medical rights,” she said. “I’m really scared for what the future holds.”
Although Didinski won’t be old enough to vote this fall she said she’s committed to encouraging those eligible to do so.
“I am 100% willing to work with different voter registration agencies to make sure that people know where they can vote and get all the information they need,” Didinski said.
Bradford senior Aniyah Ervin, 18, helped organize the demonstration. She held a portable music box blasting empowerment songs including “Run the World (Girls)” by Beyoncé.
“We’re doing this for women’s reproductive rights. We’re fighting for the rights of people and we’re standing in solidarity.” Ervin said. “This is coming from the youth, (and some of us) can’t vote. This really proves that we really matter, we really care.”
Ervin said criminalizing abortion won’t stop women from seeking abortions.
“They’re still going to do abortions but just in an unsafe way,” Ervin said.
Bradford junior Tahirah Young, 16, expressed similar sentiments.
“I never would have thought it would come to this,” Young said. “I feel like the government shouldn’t tell females what they should or couldn’t do with their bodies. What if a woman was raped? Anything could happen. It’s the woman’s choice.”
Bradford junior Chris Smith, 17, said he marched Thursday because he’s “very concerned that the Supreme Court might overturn Roe v. Wade.”
“It would mean that our country is not stepping up for its women,” Smith said. “Half of the population is women and they’re not standing up for them. ... We will take it to the streets and protest as much as we can.”
Thursday’s demonstration — organized by students on Snapchat, TikTok, Messenger and Instagram — came nearly three weeks after the leak of the draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion. The court’s final ruling is not expected until June or early July.
Tanya Ruder, Kenosha Unified School District’s chief communication officer, said the district was aware of possible walkouts Thursday.
“We are happy to share that our students who took part in the walkouts did so in a mature, well-behaved manner under the supervision of building and district staff,” Ruder said in a statement.
Ruder said that when a walkout occurs, learning and lessons continue in the classroom as scheduled.
“State statutes for attendance apply during this time, but parents/guardians may call the attendance office to excuse their child so they may participate,” Ruder said. “For example, unexcused students who report to class late following the walkout will be marked tardy. Likewise, unexcused students who leave class after it has begun and return to the same class immediately following the walkout will be marked truant for that class.”
On Sunday afternoon an abortion rights protest organized by the Kenosha County Democratic Party drew about 200 to Downtown Kenosha’s Civic Center Park.