Roe v. Wade protest: ‘We’re all gathered here today because we know that another future is possible’

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Photo courtesy of Rebecca Oriza

Protestors march the streets of the CU area displaying signs to fight against the overturning of Roe v. Wade on Friday. The CU community voices there feelings on the Roe v. Wade overturn as well as coming together outside the Champaign County Courthouse to demonstrate against the Supreme Court’s decision.

By Kylie Corral and Rebecca Oriza

All across the nation, rallies are taking place in protest of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, putting abortion rights at risk. On Friday evening, a group of women, men, children and even a few fur friends gathered around the Champaign County Courthouse to voice their opinions on the Supreme Court’s decision. 

Clustered around the courthouse, people gathered to hear speeches and chant with those leading the protest. Despite the late June heat, people were prepared to march and protest the entire time.

Heather Ennis, a PhD candidate in the English department at the University, has lived in Urbana for five years. She said she heard about the ruling this morning when her mother called her to let her know the news.

Ennis said her mother was a preteen when Roe v. Wade was enacted and explained that her mother’s constitutional right to get an abortion was protected during her entire reproductive life — something that has changed now.

“It was kind of a sad thing to hear it from my mom, but it was also, like to hear it from her, felt a certain level of comforting,” Ennis said.

Ennis said she found out about the protest from other people who participate in progressive activist circles as well as the Graduate Employees’ Organization labor union, or the GEO. She said she was driven to attend because of an experience she had in the past involving bans on abortions.

While Ennis was living and studying abroad in Ireland in her 2os, she said abortions were completely illegal. In 2012, Savita Halappanavar, a woman who was miscarrying her child asked a hospital in Ireland to give her an emergency abortion to save her life. When her request was refused, Halappanavar died of septicemia.

“And I thought, you know, what a backwards system where this could happen,” Ennis said. “It was all over the news in Ireland, and I saw women take to the streets in Dublin, and it really affected me. That story has stuck with me, that even if you don’t think that you ever want to have an abortion, you never know when it might save your life.”

Ennis said even though she doesn’t know if this protest would help change the ruling, she said staying home wasn’t an option and that showing anger and disapproval in the face of the Supreme Court’s ruling is something important.

She said Illinois has the responsibility to welcome people seeking abortions, and people should open their homes to others who need a place to stay.

“I think looking out for each other and building networks to help people access abortion,” Ennis said. “Roe was never enough. It was kind of the bare minimum and now that has even fallen off and it’s just, it’s just devastating.”

Another attendee was David Sheridan, whose shirt spelled out “Women Rights are Human Rights.”

“I’m wearing this shirt because abortion access has been under assault since the inception of Roe versus Wade,” Sheridan said. “This is just another step in the Right’s dirty fight to try and take it for themselves and subject people to incubating children that are not necessarily what they want.”

Even though Sheridan said he will never need an abortion and the likelihood of an abortion ban in Illinois is slim, he explained how it’s an important right everyone must fight for.

“Because it affects men, too,” he said. “Because we have women that we love, and we need to protect them. It’s not about me as much. It is about all those women out there who need it who need it or else it will derail their entire lives, or it could actually kill them.”

Vicky Smaardyk was another attendee with a unique slogan. 

“We have to get active,” she said. “That’s why my sign says ‘Granny, get off the couch!’ For them to make the ruling that they did shows me that they are not defending the Constitution. They are playing politics. That’s why I want to say, read up on who you’re voting for and how important it is to vote. Voting for your local people is as important as voting for the president of the country.”

At 66 years old, Smaardyk remembers watching Roe v. Wade in the 70s and seeing it as progress for society, only to watch it be undone. 

“It was a very disturbing day,” Smmardyk said. “I think it is an awful setback for society. The United States of America should be ashamed of itself. This is the land of the free, and this is ridiculous. It’s just unbelievable.”

Ashli Landa, a communication specialist at Parkland College, said she found out about the Supreme Court ruling when she woke up and checked the notifications on her phone, adding that she immediately felt like she was sinking. She said she found out about the protest on social media and knew it was something that she didn’t want to miss.

“I decided to come because a couple of years ago when the Black Lives Matter protests were happening, I sat those out, and I was really uncomfortable with that decision overall, and I really did not want to regret not being a part of this,” Landa said.

Even though Landa doesn’t think this protest will do much for the ruling, she said she thinks that it was important that everyone turned out to show that people want change.

“We don’t have a lot of power against the Supreme Court, but hopefully, they might see that it’s important to the people,” Landa said.

Landa said she hopes that Roe v. Wade gets reinstated so women can have access to the healthcare they deserve and so they aren’t treated like second-class citizens in America.

“Well, I hope that Illinois can continue to be a safe haven for women in the Midwest,” she said. “I hope our governor, our people in Congress, I hope that they do what they can to continue to protect abortion.”

More than 300 people were in attendance, marching around Champaign shouting, “My body, my choice!” They took to the streets covering about 1.75 miles down Springfield Avenue, going to Green and Race streets and back. Passing cars honked in support, and people cheered from their porches.

The rally was organized by the Champaign branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. 

Karla Sanabria-Véaz, the co-president of the GEO at the University, spoke at the beginning of the protest. Drawing from her own life experiences, she gave a passionate speech about the dangers of the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

“When I was in Puerto Rico, I had this experience,” Sanabria-Véaz said, standing in the small concrete square in front of the Champaign County Courthouse. “Our contraception didn’t work, and it’s my body, it’s my choice, and at that time, I didn’t want to be a mother because maternity should be desired, not imposed.”

She said she had to go to one of the seven abortion clinics located in Puerto Rico and that abortion care was impossible for those without access to a means of transportation to travel to a clinic.

She said having been raised Catholic and seeing many pictures of fetuses before having an abortion, she experienced a lot of pain when questioning her decision. But she said she knows her case is not in isolation.

“It is the fact that the people that made this decision today — that are not going to go through these personal experiences — are the ones making decisions over our bodies because they think that we don’t have authority over ourselves, and they think that they’re going to actually win by keeping us alienating, but they’re wrong because there are over 300 people here today, that’s not gonna happen,” Sanabria-Véaz said.

Sanabria-Véaz said everyone can make something out of this pain and anger and transform it into collective power.

“And so today, we’re all gathered here today because we know that another future is possible,” she said. “Another alternative is possible, of maternity in which we get to decide that we want to be mothers and caregivers is possible. And let us show these people that we want free abortions because we refuse to die.”

Hrant Kebantsi, organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation in Champaign-Urbana, said the organization had been planning this rally since the Supreme Court draft came out last month. 

Kebantsi said he found out about the Supreme Court’s ruling online and was shocked, angry and disappointed.

“I mean, it’s unconscionable to have people stripped from the most basic right to control their own bodies,” Kebantsi said. “And I think this turnout that we’ve seen today, and not just the turnout, but the anger (and) the fire shows that people recognize that this is not just one incident. This is a struggle. This is a fight.”

Although he’s upset about the overturn of Roe v. Wade, Kebantsi said he was sad to discover that he wasn’t surprised by the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“I think it shows that decisions like this, they’re not just making people mad, but people have been getting to turn that anger into action,” he said. “People weren’t just angry, they came out today, they marched and I think we’re gonna see people working together working to fight against this.”

 

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