Pro-choice advocates rally against US rollbacks

By ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Staff Writer

Published: 01-22-2023 9:04 PM

NORTHAMPTON — On what would have been the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the country before being overturned by the court last year, women from generations old and new rallied Sunday at City Hall to send a message that the fight for abortion rights is far from over.

More than one hundred people spilled out onto Main Street for the “Bigger than Roe” rally, part of nationwide demonstrations organized to demand a return to greater abortion and reproductive health care access. The event in Northampton was organized by Alice Jenkins, a 17-year-old junior at Hampshire Regional High School, and Beth Lev of local activist group Indivisible Northampton-Swing Left Western Mass.

For Jenkins, who organized a similar rally in Northampton in May, organizing events in support of women’s rights is something of a family tradition. She said she was influenced by her grandmother Pat Miller, herself a feminist activist, and one of her distant ancestors, the 19th-century women’s suffragist Lucy Stone.

“It’s been instilled in me as who I am,” she told the Gazette. “So when events like this come up and there’s national-phase action, it’s like, what else would I do?”

Women of all ages spoke at the event about what abortion rights and reproductive care access meant to them. Freya Brody, a 15-year-old student at Amherst Regional High School and member of local youth activist group Generation Ratify, sees the notion that she might have fewer rights than women of past generations as a failure on the part of the U.S. government.

“In history class, we are told of the notion of progress, that over time, things will get increasingly better for society,” she said. “But as I look around today, I find our country undoing progress that was made decades ago, sending us back in time. It is completely ridiculous that we have to fight this again.”

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Carolyn Oppenheim, 80, was 30 years old when Roe v. Wade enshrined abortion rights. Oppenheim attended the event as a member of activist group Raging Grannies, who sang protest songs to mark the start of the rally. She then spoke about what life was like before abortion was legalized in the country.

“I had friends who had illegal abortions,” she told the crowd. “I had friends who had to have babies, because they couldn’t get an abortion and it messed up their lives. It was a nightmare.”

Also speaking at the event were local officials including City Councilor Rachel Maiore, state Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa and U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern.

Sabadosa noted that although Massachusetts has strong state laws protecting access to abortion, there was still more that could be done, such as legislation that could allow access to contraceptive medicine at pharmacies and provide health care for people not wishing to have children through methods such as tubal ligation.

“We need to make sure that no one is ever coerced into that choice, ever,” she said. “We need to make sure that people have that access available to them at no cost, because that’s part of reproductive justice.”

McGovern warned that those looking to curtail abortion rights in the country weren’t finished, and there was much more fighting to be done in Congress on the issue.

“They want to go further, much further,” he said of the anti-abortion movement. “This has never been just about abortion. It is about controlling people’s bodies. It is about controlling women. It is about politics and it is sick and it is wrong. And I am proud to stand with all of you to tell you that we’re going to stand together and we’re going to fight back.”

Pro-choice rallies across the country on Sunday had been preceded by similar pro-life rallies, such as one in Washington that took place on Friday.

Jenkins noted in closing remarks that teenagers at those pro-life rallies had described themselves as the “post-Roe generation,” a claim to which Jenkins responded with three words .

“Not for long,” she said.

Alexander MacDougall can be reached at amacdougall@gazettenet.com.

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