People of all genders and ages gathered on the North Olympic Peninsula over the weekend to protest Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, which removes the federal constitutional right to abortion and returns the issue to state legislatures.
That is leading to a mixed bag of abortion laws in the U.S.; abortion is legal depending upon where a person lives. Some Republican-led states are banning or severely limiting abortion immediately, while other restrictions will take effect later. In others, generally Democrat-led states, abortion remains legal up to certain time limits or on demand.
“Right now, I have less rights than my grandma did,” said Eli Smith at the gathering at the Clallam County Courthouse in Port Angeles. She works at SisterLand Farms of Port Angeles, which organized the gathering.
“I cried pretty hard,” she said.
The rally in Port Angeles drew more than 100 people, while one in Port Townsend on Friday afternoon had about 80 participants, said organizer Debbi Steele of Indivisible Port Townsend, and a Sequim gathering organized by Rachel Ginsberg drew about 50 people to the corner of West Washington Street and Sequim Avenue, she said in an email.
At all these rallies, most drivers who responded as they passed by honked and waved in support.
A few leaned out windows with down-turned thumbs, raised middle fingers or called participants murderers, echoing the banner held by two women at the triangle where U.S. Highway 101 splits into First and Front streets in Port Angeles on Saturday. The banner read: “Abortion is murder.”
In Port Townsend, participants received “LOTS of very positive feedback with horns and thumbs up,” Steele said.
“The Supreme Court decision is a huge disappointment to all of us who worked so hard to get the original decision in place,” she said.
“I think Ruth Bader Ginsberg (the late Supreme Court justice) said it best: “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well being and dignity. When government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices,’” Steele added.
The Sequim gathering had no speakers but did have “music and chutzpah,” Rachel Ginsberg said.
“We will not go backwards due to minority opinion. We need policies that support people’s whole lives, including access to hospitals and clinics and healthcare provided by people that we trust and insurance that actually covers our real needs,” she added.
“We need to start taking care of each other as a human race.”
Among the signs carried in Port Angeles were such sentiments as “Forced birth = violence;” “Abort the Supreme Court; “Overturn the Constitution;” and “Not Usually a Sign Guy but WTF.”
“How are we going to get ahead if we have to keep litigating basic human rights?” asked Cheryl Baumann of Port Angeles.
Theresa Cashman of Port Angeles, who was holding a sign that said, “This isn’t a theocracy,” said “not all religions believe that God requires us to give birth. … One person’s religion shouldn’t rule everyone.”
Karen Branyan of Port Angeles said she felt “sick, disgusted, angry” when she heard the news. She was 11 when Roe v. Wade ruling was made in 1973; she worried about her daughter.
However, “I’m glad to see so many young people here,” she said.
But she added, “I’m worried about what’s next.”
Some at the rally talked of the fear that this ruling would mean the end of several other privacy rights that were based on the substantive due process doctrine.
Friday’s announced ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — which upheld a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks and overturned Roe v. Wade and the 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey — specifically said that it applied only to abortion.
But Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring opinion calling for other substantive due process doctrine rulings — such as those pertaining to gay marriage and contraception — to be reviewed.
“It’s not going to stop here,” said Brett Eilan, a young certified nursing assistant, about Roe v. Wade being overturned.
“The Supreme Court is overturning precedent,” and nothing is now protected, he said, especially expressing concern for an upcoming decision on West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency.
The decision overturning Roe v. Wade “shows they will exercise the power they have and that they don’t represent the majority,” he said.
“You have to show there are people ready to fight,” Eilan added.
At the Port Angeles rally, organizer Arleen Jenson of SisterLand Farms — who goes by Jenson only — urged people to block Lincoln Street for one minute, saying that a woman dies in pregnancy or childbirth every minute of every day, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The crowd blocked the street without incident and with honking cheers from some of those stopped for that minute.
Jenson also told the crowd that Washington state residents “are some of the most privileged people in the country” because of the state’s abortion law.
“But we all have loved ones in other parts of the country.”
Gov. Jay Inslee said during a Saturday press conference that he would make Washington a “sanctuary of choice,” defending the right to reproductive health care, privacy and safety of citizens, “including those that come from other states.”
“Next week I will be issuing an executive order to the Washington State Patrol not to cooperate in investigations of other states to who violate the Roe v. Wade decision,” Inslee said, according to The Associated Press.
“Access to data and privacy is very important in this fight, so we are going to be very alert in privacy laws … we’re not going to allow that data to get back to Texas or Missouri or Idaho.”
Inslee also called for a state constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights within his state’s borders.
“The right to this choice, this constitutional choice for the last five decades, should not depend on which party is in control of our state Legislature,” said Inslee, a Democrat.
Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].