Protests Over Abortion Access Shouldn’t Have to be “Civil”

Many online commentators compared the complaints against protests at officials’ homes with the response to Christine Blasey Ford, who after accusing Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault during his confirmation was forced to repeatedly move for her own safety. Others brought up death threats against Anita Hill, who leveled accusations of sexual harassment against Justice Clarence Thomas and received little defense in the name of “civility” at the time. Kavanaugh and Thomas are now part of the conservative majority considering undoing abortion access and Thomas’s wife Ginni is embroiled in a scandal over her support for overturning the 2020 election. Again, the stakes could not be higher — and the risk is not to those in power.

In this country, protesters are under constant threat of violence, as anyone kettled during the summer of 2020 can tell you. I haven’t forgotten June 2020, when D.C. metro police chased dozens of protesters into the home of then-44-year-old Rahul Dubey, then waiting for them outside overnight during a curfew under threat of arrest. I haven’t forgotten the Philadelphia police earning the criticism of United Nations human rights experts for their treatment of protesters, or mother Rickia Young, beaten and separated from her child by the Philadelphia Police (a since-fired officer was charged with assault in April 2022 for his involvement).

Protesting is an incredibly brave risk to take in America and we need to keep doing it.

When you look at what won abortion rights in countries across Latin America, which has seen rapid progress, it wasn’t perfectly protesting in a way that accommodated the comfort of those in power or focusing on electoral politics to the abandonment of other methods. They took to the streets in immense numbers. Writes Emily Green for VICE, “The campaign for abortion rights became all-encompassing: Activists pursued legal challenges in conjunction with public protests and drives to change public opinion.”

Even here, despite what we’re told, protesting works. One need only look to the legacy of the AIDS activism group ACT UP to see it in our history. And just this week we witnessed agitation for change. On May 10, Lancaster Stands Up, a Pennsylvania community organization, began a sit-in in Senator Bob Casey’s (D-PA) office to push him to support the Women’s Health Protection Act. (Casey was one of two Democratic senators who had yet to support the bill.) A few minutes later, Casey committed to backing the WHPA.

Paula Ávila-Guillén, executive director of the Women’s Equality Center in New York and a Colombian lawyer, told VICE, “We changed the laws because we went to the streets.” We can too. And if we couldn’t, they wouldn’t be working so hard to convince us otherwise.

Want more from Teen Vogue? Check this out: This Supreme Court Case Secured Students’ Right to Protest

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