Students Reclaim Their Power

A sea of bright pink shirts, pins, colorful signs and chants flooded New London’s Main Street following the student-led Bans Off Our Bodies rally. Planned in collaboration by Colby-Sawyer’s Planned Parenthood Generation Action Association (PPGAA), Pride and Psychology clubs, the event brought faculty, students and staff together on Saturday, Oct. 22, to support abortion and reproductive rights.

Sam Mongeon, president of PPGAA, Abigail Walker, president of Pride, and Cat Dinsdale, president of Psychology Club, worked together to bring this event to the student body. The passion they each hold for this particular issue is abundantly clear, rooted in stories and experiences close to their hearts. The event came as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year on Dobbs and the sweeping legislation that followed restricting health care to people around the country.

Before the march into town, members of the Colby-Sawyer community and politicians at both the state and local levels spoke to the crowd gathered on the quad. The speeches presented various perspectives on the issue, ranging from personal stories on the right to choose to the weaponization of religion against reproductive freedoms. No matter what the main focus of their speech was, the speakers always stressed the right to choose and the importance of voting in the midterm elections to protect that right.

Not long after the June Supreme Court decision, Walker and Mongeon wanted to do something. “Sam and I were going to do a Zoom thing over the summer — try to get some professors on to talk about it,” Walker said. “We were trying to get something planned for the week it happened and it just fizzled out. It was too difficult to plan from five different states.”

Dinsdale said she felt “that something in the school need[ed] to be done to represent the students because it happened over the summer, so there really wasn’t much that happened.” After talking with Professor Kathleen Farrell, she reached out to Mongeon and Walker to see if they would be interested in collaborating.

Walker felt similarly to Dinsdale. “Knowing that for many years this was a women’s college and is still primarily attended by people who are being directly affected by this decision, I think it is important for this event to be held so students know they are supported,” Walker said. All three wanted to make sure the student body knew that their fellow students were supportive of them.

The three presidents felt it was important that these clubs specifically work together because of how connected the issues of mental health, LGBTQ+ rights and reproductive freedoms are. Mongeon felt it was crucial to include CSC’s Pride club. “Abortion is often thought of as a woman’s issue,” she said, “but it does disproportionately effect people in the LGBTQ+ community more than anything.” She wanted to bring attention to that aspect of the issue.

Walked expressed similar concerns due to “the amount of attacks there have been on healthcare for LGBTQ+ individuals, specifically for transgender individuals, but not only them, but for cis-queer folk as well. … It’s just the latest in a very, very long line of attacks on our autonomy.” They all wanted to make sure that frequently underrepresented communities saw themselves represented in some way during the event.

Although all three concluded that it wasn’t too difficult an event to plan, it was a time-consuming effort. From reaching out to guest speakers, getting any necessary permits, considering any potential safety issues and hosting a sign-making booth, the three presidents often found themselves working on making the rally happen. They were unsure of what to expect in terms of support from the community but were grateful to find support from their fellow students and the college’s faculty and staff.

“All my professors that have heard about this have been supportive,” Mongeon said. “People in Baird have been supportive. Like everyone that I’ve talked to at this campus has been supportive, and that is not what I was expecting. I thought there was going to be pushback. I thought that the school was going to say ‘this is too controversial for us to do,’ but they let us do it.”

The presidents considered any attendance at the event a success for all of their hard work. “This small college in New Hampshire is going to give hope to so many people, that you are not alone,” Dinsdale said, “that … people are still fighting for reproductive rights. That is the goal I want for this.”

Each of the presidents plan to hold different events to bring awareness to related issues. For future events, Mongeon hopes to focus on sex education and has a trivia night in the works. Walker similarly hopes to bring awareness to LGBTQ+-specific sex education, and Dinsdale wants to give attention to sexual assault cases in general and on campus. All three see their support of various issues regarding healthcare and autonomy continuing on well after their graduations in May.