The Voices of Young People

Arthi Kondapaneni makes a difference in her community advocating for women’s rights


submitted by Arthi Kondapaneni

Arthi Kondapaneni, Maddie Abernathy, and Ginna Counterman gather around O’Fallon Municipal Court expressing their feelings over reproductive rights.

Hailey Davies, Reporter

The streets of O’Fallon Missouri, were filled with signs, friends, and spirit ready to advocate for women’s rights on May 28. Liberty senior Arthi Kondapaneni holds a sign that says “My Body My Choice” rallying for reproductive rights at O’Fallon Municipal Court on Bryan Road.

Kondapaneni is a senior at Liberty who spends her free time advocating for women’s rights. Most recently she organized a rally for reproductive rights outside of the Justice Center in O’Fallon. Groups of people, young and old met up outside of O’Fallon Municipal Court ready to make a difference. The rally was organized after a draft was leaked from the U.S. Supreme Court on May 2, which was said to have the support of most justices. This draft would overturn Roe vs. Wade and Planned Parenthood vs. Casey and in effect the legibility of abortion would be up to individual states.

Taking action seemed like the only thing that made sense. I would not idly sit by and watch my rights being stripped away.”

— Arthi Kondapaneni

This was the first rally that Kondapaneni had ever organized. Kondapaneni was only 16 at the time but knew that she wanted to make a difference. Feeling lost and not knowing exactly where to start, Arthi got in contact with Ryan Staples, a local changemaker who organized the Black Lives Matter protest on Bryan Road in 2020. With Staples’ help, Kondapaneni got in contact with the O’Fallon Police Department and informed them of her plan. After numerous back-and-forth emails, it was officially confirmed that the rally could be held.

“I, like many other people around the country, felt utterly disgusted and dehumanized by the same government that vowed to protect our individual freedoms and right to privacy,” Kondapaneni said.

“Taking action seemed like the only thing that made sense. I would not idly sit by and watch my rights being stripped away… especially since I live in one of the most conservative states in the country – a state that, at the time, was waiting for the SCOTUS decision to be official so they could sign the trigger bans into law.” 

On May 28, the weather in O’Fallon was nice and cloudy with a high of 73 degrees. Around 10 a.m., supporters of women’s rights formed outside of Bryan Road Municipal Court. Nervous about the turnout, Kondapaneni started to set up the rally at about 9 a.m.

“First, one or two people came, but after 30 minutes, we had just shy of 200 members demonstrating their anger against our federal and state government,” Kondapaneni stated.

The rally consisted of chants, community awareness, sign-making, and speakers. Democratic Senate candidate Spencer Toder addressed the protesters as well as various other candidates running for office. Trish Gunby (for US Congress), Jon Karlen (for MO Congress), and Susan Shumway (for State Representative) all spoke during the rally. 

At the end of the rally, Kondapaneni opened the floor to anyone willing to share their stories/anger. “From personal stories to just short rants of rage, the one hour rally turned into three and I saw anger turn into action. Even though I may live in the most ‘pro-life state’ in the country, I know that I and so many others will continue to fight for basic reproductive rights,” Kondapaneni said.

“As midterm elections are approaching, I have confidence in the voters of Missouri that they will vote for representatives that will advocate for a person’s right to choose. Just like oppressive laws that existed in the past, Missouri’s abortion ban will eventually fall. I know the activists and voters are relentless and will not stop till it does.”