Almost 50 years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that women had the fundamental right of choice when it came to having an abortion. Abortions were not always illegal; in fact, the first state to impose a medicinal abortion ban was Connecticut in 1821, 45 years after our country was founded.
Over the years that followed, nearly half the states in existence added bans and restrictions. Even then, many of the bans still allowed abortions up until what was referred to as “quickening,” essentially when the woman begins to feel movement (typically when close to 14–16 weeks pregnant, although sometimes until 20 weeks for a first baby).
Since the ruling of Roe v. Wade in 1973, misogynists have worked hard to spread ignorance and misinformation in order to limit women’s rights. Unfortunately, it seems these champions of forced birthing have succeeded in reversing the little progress this country has made.
Twenty-two states, including Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana, have “trigger” laws that will immediately take effect when Roe v. Wade is overturned. Most of these laws will criminalize abortions past six weeks, without consideration for rape or incest cases.
On May 14, people across the nation rallied in support of the people who will be severely affected by the Supreme Court’s forthcoming decision. In Fresno, hundreds of people joined the Women’s March at the intersection of Blackstone and Nees avenues.
People of all ages, genders and backgrounds chanted “We will not go back” and “My body my rules.” Most protesters held signs for passing cars to see with messages such as “We are not incubators” and “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries!”
Rep. Jim Costa (D–Fresno) spoke with various protestors and gave a brief speech emphasizing the importance of Roe v. Wade and the protection it has offered not only to women but also to everyone in America. He encouraged the participants to vote in the coming election, pointing to the current makeup of the Supreme Court as being a direct result of the 2016 presidential election.
Women’s March–Fresno co-founders and coordinators Loralee Bergdall and Samantha Snow expressed their concerns.
Bergdall explained that the right to abortion, birth control and LGBTQ+ marriage are all protected by previous interpretations of the 14th Amendment.
“Our biggest concern here today is that we know this is not going to stop abortion,” she stated.
“We’ve already seen states like Louisiana and Ohio begin to legislate contraceptives. Louisiana just passed a bill that would essentially ban and criminalize Plan B and IUD.”
“Our generation is very vocal, [and] we demand our rights,” said Snow, speaking on behalf of young people. “We are of voting age now. They have to confront us, and we will vote out these bills.
“I want to urge everyone to get out there and vote, register, and do what you need to do to protect your rights.”
Three days later, Planned Parenthood held the first public stop for its “Say Abortion” bus tour at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno. This tour traveled throughout California and ended May 25 in Long Beach, aiming to tackle the stigma around abortion.
Various community leaders and Planned Parenthood representatives spoke and answered questions before listening to abortion stories from guests in a private setting.
Fresno Rabbi Laura Novak Winer spoke on the need for church leaders to speak out in support of LGBTQ+ and women’s rights, stating that “a woman’s right to choose and a woman’s right to healthcare” are fundamental.
Fresno City Council members Nelson Esparza and Esmeralda Soria also attended to emphasize their support for both women’s rights and Planned Parenthood’s work.
Soria spoke of her support of women’s access to safe healthcare, noting that 77% of Americans believe abortion should stay legal.
Esparza explained that Fresno would support Planned Parenthood in any way it could, knowing that California will soon see a wave of women traveling here to receive abortions.
Jodi Hicks, CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, and Stacy Cross, CEO of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, shared how essential it is for women to be able to make decisions over their bodies with dignity and to not be shamed for a medical procedure. They explained how Planned Parenthood has begun to prepare for the increasing number of out-of-state patients, including the purchasing of land to build new facilities.
Looking at those who so strongly seek to remove women’s reproductive rights, their self-designation of “pro life” is comical. “Pro lifers” are not pro life. If they were, they would focus on helping the lives that already exist.
These pro-birthers offer such solutions as giving up the baby for adoption, ignoring the 430,000 children who currently overwhelm the foster care system. In fact, 23,000 children age out of the foster care system without being adopted every year and 20% of those will become instantly homeless.
If truly pro life, they would care about the mother’s life and the thousands of women who will die from unsafe procedures when abortion becomes illegal in their states. If pro-birthers truly cared about the potential lives of these fetuses, they would push legislation to support single mothers, as most women who have abortions already have living, breathing children and are well below the poverty level.
If pro-birthers wanted to avoid abortions, they would push for comprehensive sex education and more accessible contraceptives. Instead of helping people who are actually in need, pro-birthers spend their time shaming and judging women for a simple medical procedure.