Demonstrators arrived in droves, encompassing all Five Corners in Vineyard Haven on Saturday, to demonstrate solidarity with protesters in a nationwide Bans Off Our Bodies protest.
Following a leak of a Supreme Court draft document indicating a majority vote in favor of overturning the 1973 decision Roe v. Wade earlier this month, communities across the country organized rallies in efforts to shine the spotlight on what is being called an attack on women’s rights.
The Supreme Court’s 1973 decision was a historic one, promising legal protection to women who choose to terminate unwanted pregnancies. If that decision were to be overturned, women would be forced to rely on state regulation for that protection, with the state laws varying widely.
Following the recent failure of the senate to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act– the democrats’ Hail Mary response to the draft document leak– those in support of a woman’s right to choose banded together, not just as a town, city or state, but as a country; avidly asserting the importance of women’s reproductive rights.
Saturday’s crowd was organized and strategic; with time for the news of the possible overturning of Roe v Wade to sink in, initial outrage has somewhat shifted to a focus on fortifying the rights women have come to rely on.
American flags waved alongside various pro-choice signs, a nod to America’s women who reside in the states where abortion will be banned completely in the event Roe v Wade is overturned.
Twisted Sisters’ ‘We’re not gonna take it,’ George Michael’s ‘Freedom,’ and ‘Woman in the White House’ by Sheryl Crow played on speakers. Passing motorists honked their car horns, which was met with passionate cheers.
Craig Norberg-Bohm, a visitor to the Island, attended the rally in support of his Vineyard friends. “I have a lot of women in my life who have had to think about [abortion] and it would be tragic if they couldn’t have that choice. That means a lot to me,” he said. Norberg-Bohm has worked extensively with men who have a history of violence toward women as a professional counselor and public educator. He said he came to the rally in support of women, and partly to set an example for other men. Supporting a woman’s right to decide what’s best for them highlights “what it is to be a man,” he said, acknowledging how far too often the perceived notion of “manliness is part of the problem.”
Oak Bluffs planning board member Ewell Hopkins said what brought him out to the rally is not just “the fact that the government [is] deciding what a woman can do with their body” but how the Supreme Court’s majority vote could set a dangerous precedent, revolking other human rights across the country.
“I think the thing that scares me the most,” said Hopkins, “is that people aren’t in general, looking at the logic behind the Supreme Court action, and how it can be applied to so many other rights that we’re assuming are given … we have to have some consistency across the states in terms of the reality of what are our values and what we respect. That’s what scares me the most, in terms of same sex marriage, in terms of contraception, this logic can be carried through so many situations where we think is settled law.”
Longtime friends Linda Moffat and Beverley Woods stood side by side, Moffat holding a sign that read “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries.” The two women, close enough to finish each other’s sentences, explained that they have been fighting for women’s access to adequate health care for quite some time. “We thought we were done,” they said almost simultaneously. Woods added, “We thought we did a good job,” to which Moffat continued, “It’s unbelievable, It’s just crazy that we have to do this again.”
“[Government is] trying to steal our rights again,” said Woods, “they’ve been our rights for 50 years and I feel like we’re just at war for the last few years, like it never ends.” Moffat pointed out her biggest concern: “I’m particularly upset because it affects people of color, I think more, that these rights are being taken away.”
Kathy Laskowki of Oak Bluffs, a co-planner of the event, echoed that sentiment. “The loss of safe and legal abortions will be felt disproportionately by poor women and women of color,” she said.
Laskowski, who wore a shirt to the demonstration that read: “not fragile like a flower, fragile like a bomb,” and in solemn acknowldgement of the consequences of an overturning, continued: “Many before us fought long and hard for women’s right to vote, to have equal rights in our society and to have a right to a safe and legal abortion … We are determined to persist and fight for a federal law to protect abortion rights.”
In a message to The Times, Laskowski said, “We are answering a national call to action. Even our small community needs to stand up for women’s rights.” Abolishing Roe v Wade, she said, is “not about being pro-life. Pro-life supporters would be just as interested, or even more, in supporting babies and moms after birth as protecting a fetus in the womb. This is about control over women and does not consider the health of women … We must stay vigilant and protect women’s rights.
Carla Cooper, of Indivisible Martha’s Vineyard, addressed the crowd standing on a fold up chair and sporting a shirt that read: “Vote. It matters.”
“We’re not going to ever give up on rights. The remedy for what is going on right now — the only remedy we have is elections. We have to vote. Not just here, we have to help our brothers and sisters in other states get their vote out in states where there are senate races right now being undertaken,” she said.
“[We’re in] a state where abortion is accesible,” Cooper said. The impact of the overturning of Roe v Wade may not be as grave for those on Martha’s Vineyard but would not bode well for those in states who already have in place legislation that would deny abortion rights in their entirety. This will have devastating effects on lower-income communities, she said. “It affects people of color, it affects indigenous people, it affects disabled people. And we are not free until they are all free. So we can’t just rest on our Massachusetts morals.”
In reference to the November Senate elections in states that would experience a sweeping abortion ban, Cooper said, “We have to step up and we have to help people in those states flip those Senate seats.”
“We need everybody in this fight,” Cooper continued, as dozens in the crowd nodded their heads in agreement. “We can’t just go home and pretend that just standing on the street corner is enough. Because it is not.”