Last weekend, thousands of people marched all over the country to defend reproductive rights in light of restrictive abortion laws being put into effect in states such as Texas. The march occurred in the wake of the Supreme Court setting a date to hear arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which is a case that has the potential to overturn Roe v. Wade. So far, the panel of judges on the fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked enforcement of Mississippi’s abortion ban because Roe v. Wade made it clear that the law was unconstitutional, which was what brought the case to the Supreme Court. For those reasons, people all over the country have become concerned and decided to protest those circumstances, and the Seattle area was no different.
Seattle saw two days worth of events, with Saturday seeing a reproductive march at Westlake Park, and Sunday seeing the “Not the Church, not the State” march to remember Rosie Jiménez, the first person who died as a result of the Hyde Amendment preventing Medicaid funds being used for abortions. Sunday’s march, which started at St. James Cathedral and ended at the Federal Courthouse, was meant to emphasize the importance of the separation of the church and the state.
Around 2,000 people showed up to Westlake Park on Saturday to show their support for reproductive rights in Seattle. There were many speakers there, who all spoke about their experiences with reproductive healthcare and how being able to access it has affected their lives like it has affected the lives of countless other people. I spoke with Kishari Sing, one of the volunteers from Bellevue who organized Saturday’s rally and kept it running smoothly. As a member of Indivisible Eastside, an organization that is dedicated to spreading grassroots awareness in the Eastside and Seattle areas, she got involved in organizing protests and putting people in touch with their representatives. Sing said that she was really happy with the turnout for the protest, and that she’s “not quite so mad at humanity today.” And it’s not tough to see why.
The atmosphere of the march never stopped feeling alive, even as speakers talked about tough things, and tough decisions they had to make. People were listening to each other, listening to their stories, and I don’t believe that anyone who was there left the march without learning something new. Abortion is a hard topic to cover, and it usually leads to anger, but this was different. At the end of Saturday’s march, there was a time for people to just listen, with a megaphone for those who wanted to share their personal stories, or just how they felt. And many people stayed, listened and learned. It didn’t matter what the circumstances were for each person, they were all able to make their choice, and that encompassed what the reproductive march was all about.
On Sunday, I got the chance to interview Gina Petry, an organizer with Radical Women Seattle, which was one of the groups that organized the “Not the Church, Not the State” march. Petry emphasized that the march was done to honor Rosie Jiménez’s life, along with others who died because they were unable to access abortions, and fighting for all aspects of reproductive justice. Specifically, she said, “We need to do things like this, organized together, to say no more.”
The Hyde Amendment banned the use of federal funds for abortions, with exceptions in place for rape, incest and if the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother. Not even a few months after it went into effect in 1977, Rosie Jiménez, a 27-year-old college student and single mother who desperately needed an abortion, couldn’t get one since Medicaid could not cover it. With no other option left, she obtained an unsafe abortion and died due to complications stemming from her abortion. As the Hyde Amendment banned the use of federal funding due to religious objections some people had, the route the march took, starting from St. James Cathedral and ending at the Federal Courthouse, made perfect sense with the calls to repeal the Hyde Amendment. “No more” indeed.
Sunday’s march had another thing that was hard to ignore. Counter-protestors with loudspeakers and massive banners decrying protestors for supporting abortion and reproductive healthcare. In a dash of irony, the small group of counter-protestors managed to make themselves be heard louder than most of the protestors did, which is a great analogy for the state of reproductive rights right now. But at the end of the day, reproductive rights are a complex issue, and oftentimes a heated one. But the marches that took place over the weekend showed that people could come together to support one another, and to have meaningful discussions about something that hits home for a lot of people.