When Kaitlin Weiss ’25 saw the leaked Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision last May, she was frustrated that there was seemingly nowhere for her to direct her passion for reproductive rights on campus.
In response to the leak, she, along with Luisa Wolcott-Breen ’25 and Cambron Wade ’24, revived the Bowdoin Reproductive Justice Coalition (BRJC). The club began in 2015, but had become dormant because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“That was a moment when [we] needed community. So we were like ‘we need to do something,’” Weiss said.
The BRJC is a chapter of the non-profit NARAL Pro-Choice America, a political action committee that works to resolve issues like abortion and birth control inaccessibility, paid parental leave and pregnancy discrimination.
The club has now accumulated 107 registered members who are excited to begin programming this semester. This began with their first meeting last Tuesday, where they discussed plans to work with other pro-choice groups in Brunswick.
This meeting follows the actions already taken by the club’s leadership. In May, Wade, Weiss and Wolcot-Breen attended a “Bans Off Our Bodies” rally organized by Planned Parenthood in Brunswick, where they gave a speech on the threat to abortion.
“It was a wonderful way to bring the Bowdoin and Brunswick community together,” Wade said.
At the rally, Weiss read an original poem she wrote two years prior called A Response To the Alabama Human Life Protection Act. Weiss wrote it at a writing conference where she was prompted to write about what makes her angry.
“Today, I’m just as angry as I was when I wrote [the poem], and while it’s infuriating that so little has changed in these two years, for me it shows that this is a continuous battle and it’s one that takes resiliency,” Weiss said at the rally in a video posted on BRJC’s Instagram.
While the rally was geared to and consisted of mostly pro-choice allies, a few protesters made an unexpected appearance.
“It was really shocking to read the poem in front of anti-abortion protesters who were at the rally, because in the past I had only read it in front of audiences who were incredibly supportive,” Weiss said.
Despite this tension, the BRJC has found support from Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights (GRR!). The organization attended the rally in May and also plans on collaborating with the BRJC this semester in a variety of ways, including educational workshops and voter registration drives.
“It is incredibly disheartening because some of the women in GRR! were involved in the initial fight for Roe [v. Wade], and then they watched it disintegrate,” Wolcott-Breen said. “So it is very enlightening to talk to them because I’ve lived in a post-Roe world my entire life.”
On October 18, GRR! is coming to campus to talk about its work, which includes spreading awareness that a crisis pregnancy center in Brunswick—one of 13 in Maine—does not provide access to abortion.
Part of the work BRJC will be doing with GRR! this semester will be attending Brunswick Farmers’ Markets to inform town residents about the crisis pregnancy center’s insufficiencies. GRR! will also be on campus in November to screen a documentary by the independent filmmaker Sue Perlgut about Connie Cook, a New York State Assembly member who co-authored a landmark bill to legalize abortion in New York three years before the Roe v. Wade decision.
In addition to collaborating with GRR!, the BRJC has organized many other initiatives with clubs on campus. These initiatives include co-hosting a talk with the Women of Color Coalition on November 19, where the clubs will discuss the disparities in medical treatment between white women and women of color.
The club is also working with Bowdoin Votes to increase voter registration before the midterm elections this fall. Since the right to abortion is not protected by the state constitution, abortion rights in Maine are contingent on the outcome of state legislature races.
“Right now, our goal is to get people out to vote,” Wolcott-Breen said. “This upcoming election is going to determine if abortion rights will be protected. They’re under threat.”