Tufts Medical Center workers, students walk out to support abortion rights

With chants, signs, and resolve, dozens of staff members and students from Tufts Medical Center as well as students from at least two local schools walked out Friday to show their support for abortion rights.

The noon rallies occurred nearly two weeks after a leaked draft opinion suggested by the US Supreme Court is on the verge of overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case legalizing abortion.

At Tufts, a swarm of white and blue formed in front of the medical center, on Washington Street, as the health care providers rallied in their scrubs. They chanted: “Not the church, not the state, women must decide their fate” and “When women’s / trans rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up fight back! ”

Tufts Medical Center staff and students held a walkout at their downtown Boston campus on Friday.Erin Clark / Globe Staff

Using a megaphone, Dr. Abby Schultz, who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology, described her grandmother’s experience as a Planned Parenthood clinician fighting for abortion access before Roe v. Wade, and challenged the crowd to continue the fight.

“We especially as health care providers cannot be silent,” Schultz said. “We must speak out and we must demand our government protect pregnant people by making sure safe and legal abortion is available in every state in the United States.”

Emma Mitchell-Sparke, a first-year medical student at Tufts, said she came to the rally to express “utter anger and disbelief with this country.”

“This so deeply affects our care of everyone,” Sparke said. “I think it’s a vulnerable attack on reproductive choice and women’s rights and it’s going to so negatively affect so many women, especially black women.”

Tufts medical student Mariah Dawson led a chant while attending a rally in front of Tufts Medical Center.Erin Clark / Globe Staff

Brian Felter, another first-year medical student, said he hoped that the rally draws attention to abortion access as a medical issue rather than a political one.

“I don’t agree with this idea that someone should be controlling that relationship between the patient and their provider,” Felter said.

Danielle Lonati, a medical technician in the clinical chemistry lab, said she found out about the rally through a pamphlet given to her as she left work on Thursday.

“I don’t really look twice at pamphlets, but I saw what it was and I immediately turned around and was like, ‘Thank you for giving this out.’ ”

Organizers said they planned to “ensure continuity of care” in their departments during the walkout.

On Thursday, the parent company of Tufts Medical Center said it stands “with our colleagues across the country who work daily to help individuals with reproductive decisions.”

In addition to Tufts Medical Center, walkouts to highlight the stakes if the high court strikes down Roe v. Wade took place at some area schools.

At Beaver Country Day School, in Chestnut Hill, 9th-grader Sienna Proctor said she was angry about the leaked draft option and wanted to do something about it. As someone who has been into civic engagement and attended the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, DC, Proctor thought the midday walkout was “a perfect way to show solidarity with what’s going on… and wake up the rest of my classmates who do not think this is a problem. ”

So Proctor, along with her friend Hannah Shermak and a few other students came together the night before to make posters, organize, and spread word about the event.

“We think it’s important to show our fellow high schoolers that we’re allowed to get angry just as much as people who do have the ability to vote, and people who might be more likely to get abortions,” Proctor said. “Because it will end up affecting us.”

Shermak, who is also in 9th grade, said she was proud of the hundreds of students who took part in the protest.

“It’s hard being so young, but I feel that we really succeeded, and this is something that neither of us could swallow down and stay quiet about,” she said.

Brookline High School students also walked out of class in support of abortion rights. The Socialist Alternative Twitter account uploaded a photo that appeared to show hundreds of students standing outside of the high school.

“This is the type of inspiring action we need from youth & workers to #DefendRoe!” tweeted the group, which helped organize several recent rallies in the area.

Friday’s actions follows demonstrations last week at the State House and on Harvard Yard that drew thousands of protesters who decried the draft ruling, which was leaked to Politico but has not been made official.


Grace Gilson can be reached at [email protected] Adria Watson can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @adriarwatson.

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