‘Our bodies are not political playgrounds’: Protestors gather downtown for reproductive rights rally

Gathered on a rainy Saturday afternoon at šxʷƛ̓exən Xwtl’a7shn (formerly known as Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza) stood individuals clad in green, holding signs of protest. They were listening to stories and calls for change from those part of the reproductive rights movement.

Yesterday, the UBC Social Justice Centre (SJC), Options for Sexual Health, Abortion Rights Coalition Canada, the BC Humanist Association and Access BC held a rally to raise awareness on reproductive rights in the US in Canada.

The rally came a week and a half after a leak from the US Supreme Court revealed that a majority of the court was in favour of overturning Roe v. Wade, the legal precedent granting people with uteruses the right to an abortion in the US. Rallies and marches happened across the US yesterday as well.

The speakers at the rally ranged from a House of Commons member to a first-year university student, all speaking to the same cause and their experiences surrounding the fight for reproductive rights. Each speech was also accompanied by an American Sign Language (ASL) translator.

A.J. Lowik, one of the speakers and a non-binary trans person, shared their experience working at an abortion clinic 20 years ago under a “women’s only employment policy,” highlighting the long time exclusion of genderqueer and gender diverse peoples from the reproductive rights movement.

“The message was loud and clear, I could be committed to abortion activism, or I could be trans, but I couldn’t be both,” Lowik said. They noted that the movement has become more inclusive in recent years.

Throughout each speech, participants in the rally stood listening politely, sometimes cheering or making comments in support of the speaker and the cause.

“Our bodies are not political playgrounds,” said speaker Aleena Haq, a first-year student at UBC and a member of the SJC, as she addressed her experiences, as well as her mother and grandmother's experiences fighting for reproductive rights.

Aleena Haq, first-year UBC student and member of the SJC, addresses the crowd

Another speaker, Jenny Kwan, a member of the House of Commons and a senior member of the BC provincial caucus of the New Democratic Party, spoke of her fight for reproductive rights.

“Not everyone has access to sexual health, not everyone has access to abortion rights, not everyone has access to pro choice to those services and that has to change,” said Kwan.

Following the last speaker, Sienna Nargang-White, a representative of SJC and second-year UBC student, gave a closing statement.

Sienna Nargang-White, a representative of SJC and second-year UBC student, hands out posters to a young attendee at the rally

“Reproductive justice is not a separate issue from colonialism, transphobia [and] sexism,” she said.

After the speeches, organizers reminded attendees to sign online petitions — which were accessed by nearby QR codes — and to prepare to march.

Volunteers and organizers handed out signs to those who did not bring their own and around 2:20 p.m., the march began.

The march’s chosen destination was a Birthright clinic — an anti-abortion establishment — approximately five minutes away on West Hastings Street. This destination was established during one of the speeches — which the crowd booed in response to its mention.

On the way to the clinic, protestors chanted “one, two, three four anti-abortion laws have got to go,” and they started booing once they arrived.