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Demonstrators rally at Harvard Yard to protest possible reversal of Roe v. Wade

Harvard University freshmen (from left) Kaitlin Shannon, Ariel Beck, and Saba Mehrzad chanted “not your body, not your choice” while rallying in Harvard Yard Wednesday to defend abortion rights and protest against a leaked draft opinion of the US Supreme Court that would overturn Roe v. Wade.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

CAMBRIDGE — Demonstrators converged on Harvard Yard Wednesday to speak out against the possible reversal of Roe v. Wade, in the wake of a leaked draft opinion from the US Supreme Court that suggests the court is poised to overturn the long-standing constitutional right to abortion.

Ava Pallotta, a freshman at Harvard and lead organizer of the rally on the steps of the historic Memorial Church, said she broke down sobbing when she heard from her mother that Roe would likely be overturned.

“The reason why I think I am here is because my mother and women before had access to safe abortions, and to see that in jeopardy is not something I thought I was ever going to have to endure in my lifetime,” said Pallotta, of Rye Brook, N.Y., in an interview before the rally, which drew hundreds of people.

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“I was sitting there bawling my eyes out on the steps of my dorm, and I thought to myself, ‘I really hope someone organizes a rally about this,’” Pallotta said. “I know this is a decision that’s left up to nine people. However, that doesn’t mean that there still isn’t a role for the community to show support for one another and just make sure everyone feels supported.”

Protesters gathered on the steps of the church in the rain, holding signs and chanting, “My body! My choice!”

Abrar Trabulsi, a junior at Harvard University, screamed in an attempt to silence counterprotestors who argued that Roe v. Wade should be overturned.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

“We are not shocked — we saw this coming,” Liz Benecchi, a freshman from Marietta, Ga., told protesters. “But Roe was passed in 1973. We are regressing literally over 49 years. Instead of taking steps forward, we are taking leaps back.”

Signs, some with ink dripping because of the rain, bore messages such as “Reproductive rights are human rights,” “I’m a woman not a womb,” and “The GOP hates menstruators.”

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Nearby, a smaller group of counterprotesters gathered, some from the Harvard Right to Life club, voicing support for the decision and holding signs with slogans such as “Pro-life is pro-woman.”

At times, the counterprotesters sang songs like “America the Beautiful,” and played songs out of a speaker, like Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby.”

Ava Swanson, a sophomore and a co-president of Harvard Right to Life, said she heard about the rally and wanted to ensure her group’s voice was heard and that people with similar views feel supported.

Kailey Nicholson, a senior at Harvard University, teared up while listening to counterprotestors argue that Roe v. Wade should be overturned. Erin Clark/Globe Staff

“We wanted to share a message that supports life, that supports women,” said Swanson, of Cache, Okla. “It’s a beautiful message, and we wanted to make sure that Harvard realizes that it’s not an echo chamber and that not everybody believes the same thing.”

For Swanson, she said, it’s important to “defend the sanctity of life.” She said she sees abortion as violent.

“If we don’t value the philosophical and scientific life that begins from conception, that is opening the door to all our other rights being taken away,” she said. “We want to protect those innocent babies … and they can’t speak for themselves, so we’re that voice for them.”

Material from Globe wire services was included in this report.


Matt Yan can be reached at matt.yan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @matt_yan12.