College Democrats host on-campus rally


Kendall Staton

Freshman architecture major Emily Hernandez-Pachon holds a sign during a rally for sexual and reproductive justice hosted by College Democrats at UK on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, outside of Whitehall Classroom Building in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Kendall Staton | Kentucky Kernel

Nate Lucas, Reporter

The UK College Democrats hosted a rally for reproductive rights and the LGBTQ+ community on Oct. 6 outside Whitehall Classroom Building.

The event culminated into a march at 2 p.m., during which around 100 participants marched to the Lexington mayor’s office and back to campus to deliver a petition to UK president Eli Capilouto.

The event also included SWAY (Student Worker Advocacy), the Young Democratic Socialists and Lamin Swann, a candidate for Lexington’s 93rd District in the Kentucky House of Representatives.

While members of the UK College Democrats gave out condoms and taught others about Kentucky legislation, the organization’s president, Hallie Rice, spoke into her megaphone to quell her crowd of eager marchers.

Rice is a junior majoring in political science, pursuing minors in criminology and philosophy and certificates in peace studies and financial planning.

Rice said the event was sparked by the Graduate Student Action Network (GSAN). After reaching out to the organization in September, the UK College Democrats were able to mobilize.

“(They) said ‘Look, we’re protesting. We need this all across the country. We’re protesting for bodily autonomy in general,’” Rice said. “We’re advocating for trans rights, LGBTQ rights, reproductive justice and all of that.”

The rally comes as an addition to women’s rights protests across the nation after the controversial court case Roe v. Wade was overturned June 24, 2022. The Supreme Court’s decision removed the federal right to abortion and left it up to the states to sanction it.

The flier used by the UK College Democrats said an invitation for the event was not extended to UK president Eli Capilouto.

“(Capilouto) did not put out a statement on the decision, UK did not, Student Government did not,” Rice said. “That’s something that we are all upset about, because that’s something that is impacting the mental health of all students on campus. There are people out here that just got their rights taken away.”

The UK College Democrats had specific requests outlined in their petition.

“We’re asking them to put out a statement on the Dobbs decision, we’re asking for them to publicly condemn the bill against transgender athletes in sports. We’re asking for free condoms in every residence hall, access to free pregnancy tests for every student, access to Plan B for free on campus, and then also a discounted price in the Wildcat Pantry and a lot of other things that we outlined on our petition,” Rice said.

The flier used by UK College Democrats also made mention of a push to vote no on amendment two. The amendment creates a new section of the Kentucky State Constitution that reads, “To protect human life, nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

Quinn Troia is a member of Student Worker Advocacy (SWAY). They are a fourth year double major in gender and women’s studies and information communication technology.

“That amendment would enshrine bans to abortion in Kentucky’s State Constitution and make it even harder to get access to reproductive health care and services. So obviously, we need to defeat that and protect people’s rights to control their own bodies.”

SWAY attended the rally due to the overlap of bodily autonomy and the labor union movement, Troia said.

“(The movement) brought us parental leave, sick leave and it’s important to be here and be in solidarity with other people fighting for control of their own bodies and their lives,” Troia said.

The march also stressed the importance of transgender rights after more Kentucky state bills have been trending to exempt transgender athletes from playing on the teams that align with their gender identity.

“I think it’s really important that we show up and be visible because we’re here,” said Troia.

The rally was also attended by multiple men advocating for women’s rights, like Riley Magill, a freshman history major at UK.

“It’s not political,” McGill said. “(I) feel like this is a very clear subject. There’s not much wording around it.”

A counter protest was also held at the event. A group of people held signs showing their disagreement with abortion.

Vice president of Pro-Life Wildcats Rebekah Keith protested as Rice began to mobilize march participants. Keith is a UK sophomore English major with a minor in philosophy and Jewish studies.

“As an organization, we have two main goals, and those are to educate people about what abortion actually is, because it is a very violent procedure, and also to help raise money for women who are unexpectedly pregnant on campus,” Keith said.

Keith said she disagrees with the opinion that Amendment Two should not be ratified. Many supporters of the defeat of Amendment Two base it upon the ability for women to access abortion in cases of sexual assault or incest.

“People really love to focus on the fringe cases,” Keith said.

Around 200 people signed the petition. All protestors were able to safely march to their desired destinations.