Protesters arrived in droves, encompassing all Five Corners in Vineyard Haven on Saturday, to show solidarity with protesters in a nationwide Bans Off Our Bodies protest.
Following a leak from a Draft Supreme Court document showing majority vote to overturn 1973 ruling Roe vs. Wade earlier this month, communities across the country held rallies in an effort to shine the spotlight on what is being called an attack on women’s rights.
The 1973 Supreme Court decision was historic, promising legal protection for women who choose to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. If this decision were to be overturned, women would be forced to rely on state regulations for this protection, as state laws vary widely.
Following the Senate’s recent failure to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act – the Democrats’ response to the leaked draft document – those who support women’s right to choose have banded together, not only as as 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 news of the possible reversal of Roe vs. Wade to sink in, the initial outrage shifted somewhat to a focus on strengthening the rights that women have come to rely on.
American flags waved alongside various pro-choice signs, a nod to American women who reside in states where abortion will be completely banned in the event Roe vs. Wade is overturned.
“We’re Not Gonna Take It” by the Twisted Sisters, “Freedom” by George Michael and “Woman in the White House” by Sheryl Crow played over loudspeakers. Passing motorists honked their horns, which were 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. It means a lot to me,” he said. Norberg-Bohm has worked extensively with men who have histories of violence against women as a professional counselor and public educator. He said he came to the rally to support women and in part to set an example for other men. Supporting a woman’s right to decide what’s best for her highlights “what it’s like to be a man,” he said, acknowledging how too often the perceived notion of ” masculinity is part of the problem.
Oak Bluffs planning board member Ewell Hopkins said what brought him to the rally was not just “the fact that the government [is] decide what a woman can do with her body,” but how the Supreme Court’s majority vote could set a dangerous precedent, nullifying other human rights across the country.
“I think the thing that scares me the most,” Hopkins said, “is that people aren’t in general, looking at the logic behind the Supreme Court’s action, and how it can be applied. to so many other rights that we’re assuming are given…we need to have some consistency across states in terms of the reality of our values and what we respect.That’s what scares me the most, in When it comes to same-sex marriage, when it comes to contraception, that logic can be carried through so many situations where we think it’s established law.
Longtime friends Linda Moffat and Beverley Woods stood side-by-side, with Moffat holding a sign that read “Keep your rosaries out of my ovaries.” The two women, close enough to finish each other’s sentences, explained that they had been fighting for some time for women’s access to adequate health care. “We thought we were done,” they said almost simultaneously. Woods added, “We thought we did a good job,” to which Moffat continued, “It’s amazing, it’s just crazy that we have to do this again.”
“[Government is] trying to steal our rights again,” Woods said, “they’ve been our rights for 50 years and I feel like we’ve been at war for a few years like it’s never ending. Moffat outlined his biggest concern: “I’m especially upset because it affects people of color, I think more, that those rights are taken away from them.”
Kathy Laskowki of Oak Bluffs, co-organizer 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 at the protest that said, “not fragile like a flower, fragile like a bomb,” and solemnly acknowledging the consequences of a reversal, continued, “Many before us fought long and hard for the women’s right to vote, to have equal rights in our society, and to have the right to a safe and legal abortion… We are determined to persist and fight for a federal law protecting the right to abortion.
In a message to The Times, Laskowski said, “We are responding to a national call to action. Even our small community must stand up for women’s rights. Abolish Roe vs. Wade, she said, “is not about being pro-life. Pro-life supporters would be just as, if not more, interested in supporting babies and moms after birth as they are in protecting a fetus in the womb. It’s about control over women and it doesn’t take into account women’s health… We have to stay vigilant and protect women’s rights.
Carla Cooper of Indivisible Martha’s Vineyard addressed the crowd while standing on a folding chair and sporting a shirt that read, “Vote. It matters.”
“We are never going to give up the rights. The remedy for what is happening right now – the only remedy we have is elections. We have to vote. Not just here, we need to help our brothers and sisters in other states get their vote in states where senatorial elections are currently being held,” she said.
“[We’re in] a state where abortion is accessible,” Cooper said. The impact of the reversal of Roe vs. Wade may not be so dire for those in Martha’s Vineyard, but would not bode well for those in states that already have legislation in place that would deny the right to abortion in its entirety. This will have devastating effects on low-income communities, she said. “It affects people of color, it affects Indigenous people, it affects people with disabilities. And we’re not free until they all are. So we can’t just rest on our Massachusetts mores.
Referencing November’s Senate elections in states that would see sweeping abortion bans, Cooper said, “We need to step up and we need to help people in those states flip those Senate seats.”
“We need everyone in this fight,” Cooper continued, as dozens of people in the crowd nodded in agreement. “We can’t just go home and pretend it’s enough to just stand around the corner. Because it’s not.”