‘Empathy above all else’

What drove this student to organize a protest in the face of a leaked Supreme Court decision.


Photo by Karina Rower

“I think every person with a uterus deserves the right to choose when and how they want to have children,” Shevlin said.

In lieu of the upcoming decision in the Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Americans have been waiting in suspense to hear about the future of abortion rights in the U.S. This anticipation comes with a degree of interest that hasn’t been seen on such a large scale since Roe v. Wade in 1973. While we were not intended to know the fate of Roe v. Wade (as well as other abortion-related decisions) until this summer, the Court’s drafted decision was leaked to Politico on Monday. 

The leaked document revealed a majority decision by the Supreme Court to overturn the decision made in Roe v. Wade. Authored by Justice Samuel Alito, the draft of the majority decision states, “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and [Planned Parenthood v.] Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division.”

In the wake of this relatively unprecedented leak, people around the U.S. have responded in a myriad of ways. Upon hearing about the leaked decision, Lainey Shevlin, sophomore, felt inclined to organize a protest of her own. 

Shevlin began posting details via Instagram regarding her protest on Tuesday within 24 hours of the leak, asking people to join and spread the word. To Shevlin, education and empathy are the most important tools in understanding and spreading the word about abortion access and what the Supreme Court’s ruling will mean for millions of people in the future. 

[Lily Gottschling]: So my first question is, as you’re organizing this protest and everything, what are you hoping to accomplish on both a local and national level?

[Lainey Shevlin]: I think honestly just getting recognition for it. I mean, we are very fortunate that we’re in a primarily blue state and we also have laws in place that already protect abortion rights, but it’s that’s not necessarily true all over the nation. So I think just drawing attention to it. When I was going around talking to people, I realized a lot of people have no idea what’s going on with Roe v. Wade, and they just kind of assume that abortion is legal everywhere.

LG: Yeah totally. So as you are organizing this protest, what are some potential obstacles that you perceive not only for this protest but also for the country as a whole?

LS: I think just from a personal standpoint, the argument for pro-life is very much on the basis of religion for a lot of people and I think that’s just very impractical because like, obviously, you can’t make anyone believe in your religion. So I think just recognizing that you yourself can say I don’t like abortion, I would never personally get one, and also accept the fact that it isn’t your place to say that for anyone else. I’ve already gotten some messages on Instagram [from] people that are like, “you’re killing babies” and I’m like, you can talk to me when you grow a uterus but for now I do not want to hear it.

LG: So going along the same lines, do you feel like you had pushback in the general community? And if so, do you kind of foresee any actual threat behind it?

LS: I don’t think so. And if some of them did, they need to get a life because I am a 16-year-old high school student, and threatening me won’t do anything. I mean, you’re not gonna please everybody and if they’re mad that’s on them, not me.

LG: So are you kind of like planning to organize anything in addition to the protest? Or like, if people can’t go to the protest how would you encourage them to still be involved? 

LS: I mean, I’ve just been advising people to like repost if you can, and to just kind of educate yourself about everything going on with Roe v. Wade because it really is like, up and down every day. I think yeah, just kind of making an effort to educate yourself and then if the protest does go good I would love to do another one.

LG: Yeah, so on that note, what has gotten into organizing this in like a public space? Like did you just reach out to let people know that you’re going to be there at a certain time and stuff?

LS: It’s pretty much like that. I mean, I’ve reached out to [other news sites] and Pro-Choice America just like letting them know what’s happening asking them for their support or maybe to talk about it. I mean, as far as organization, I’m kind of completely new to it. So I’m just like, we’re gonna wing it and we’re gonna see what happens.

LG: Yeah, definitely. So what does this issue mean to you specifically, like what about this specifically makes you think, “yeah I need to do something about it”?

LS: I think just being a young woman in the U.S. in a time where Roe v. Wade is likely going to be overturned [is] very stressful. You know, I’m 16 and I feel like this could definitely affect my future and the futures of so many others and it’s just an issue I hold very near and dear to my heart. My aunt had a medical issue with her pregnancy and she could not carry the baby to term. I just think like if she wasn’t able to have access to a legal abortion she might not be here. I think every person with a uterus deserves the right to choose when and how they want to have children.

LG: So to the people who kind of look at this issue as like, you know, pro-life or pro-birth, how would you advise them to kind of look at it from a different angle to realize why this is so important to you?

LS: Yeah I would say try to look at it from a personal perspective, like what if that was you or a friend or a mom or a daughter or a sister or just any person in your life that has a uterus and could be impacted by this. I think also recognizing the fact that you should value the living life more than the unborn life. I think a lot of times people say they’re pro-life, but they’re more so pro-birth because if they were pro-life, they would also be supporting Black Lives Matter. They’d be supporting gun control and all these things that need to be put in place so that people can have good lives. Kind of just trying to put aside any things you might have heard regarding abortion laws, and try to just take a step back and look at like, maybe it really isn’t my place to tell someone what they can do with their own body.

LG: Do you have anything else that you feel like needs to be mentioned that people should know?

LS: Yeah, I’m really just doing this to spread awareness and just kind of offer support to people that might be feeling specifically targeted or stressed out by the issue, because I know that abortion laws and abortion bans disproportionately affect women of color and low-income women. People that might live in West Linn, which is generally a pretty wealthy and white community, we might not see it firsthand, but it’s definitely affecting a lot of people. So I think just trying to be empathetic, above all else, just have compassion and try to see other people’s points of view.

If you are interested in attending Shevlin’s protest, it will take place from 2-4 p.m. at the intersection of Blankenship road and 10th street on Saturday, May 7. 

For additional coverage of the protest, check out Karina Rower’s photostory: Supreme Court Draft elicits student protest.