When Selena Rawlley found out last month about the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion indicating the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade, she was stunned by disbelief.
Rawlley, a graduate of Clarksburg High School and the chief of staff and campaign manager for state Del. Sara Love of Bethesda, soon poured over the 98-page document leaked to Politico, reading it again and again.
The next day, the 24-year-old traveled from her Annapolis apartment to the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., to join people protesting the idea that what had been considered settled case law for 50 years could be overturned.
“We were out there for this one cause, which was to fight for our reproductive freedom and our reproductive rights,” Rawlley said.
A few days later, Rawlley got a call from Love, a Democrat who represents District 16, pitching the bare bones of an idea for a fellowship program that would recruit students to campaign for pro-choice candidates around the state. Through the efforts of Love and Rawlley, StandUp MD was born.
StandUp MD is a pro-choice mobilization fellowship program that will last roughly one month this summer. Fellows will attend virtual courses twice a week and dedicate six hours each week to canvassing for their assigned candidate, according to the program application.
Love said she modeled StandUp MD after U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin’s Democracy Summer program, which seeks to bring about political change in the United States by training the next generation of Democratic leaders to win elections at every level, according to its website.
StandUp MD was open to high school, undergraduate and graduate students and the program kicked off Wednesday. Members of the inaugural cohort of 18 students toured the State House in Annapolis and heard from House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County), Love said.
The students also participated in a mock bill hearing in a committee room with Love portraying the pro-choice perspective and Rawlley representing the pro-life view. The exercise included opportunities for fellows to ask questions as if they were committee members, Rawlley said.
“They did an excellent job of coming up with pointed, thoughtful questions to ask and really broke down the arguments and analyzed them at their core,” Rawlley said.
Love and her District 16 colleagues, Dels. Ariana Kelly and Marc Korman, are running unopposed in the July 19 primary election — the incumbents are the only candidates for their district’s three House seats. As a result, Love said she is dedicating her time and a portion of her campaign funds to StandUp MD.
Leni Glassman, a rising junior at Holton-Arms School in Bethesda and a District 16 resident, is one of the program’s fellows.
At 16, she’s not old enough to vote yet, but she said it’s “wonderful” to work with and learn from her representative to the General Assembly.
“She’s done a great job of representing [women] and advocating for our best interests, especially in terms of this abortion access,” Glassman said.
Fellows will join the academic portion of Raskin’s Democracy Summer program for topics such as voting rights, fair elections and the Jan. 6 insurrection, Love said. They will also take part in separate programming pertaining to Maryland and reproductive rights.
“Maryland is a blue state, but this is something we cannot take for granted and must always ensure that we have a pro-choice majority,” Love said.
The group will learn to campaign effectively through phone banking and canvassing, Rawlley said. Each fellow will receive a $500 stipend from Love’s campaign funds.
Janiya Molina, a rising senior studying criminology and criminal justice at the University of Maryland, said she found out about StandUp MD from their boss, state Del. Emily Shetty, a Kensington Democrat who represents District 18.
Molina said she values Maryland as a sanctuary state for pro-choice advocacy and women’s reproductive health.
“It’s important that we stay a place where women are respected and their values are upheld,” they said.