Anticipating the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, Cape Cod supporters of abortion rights are hosting three “Bans Off Our Bodies” rallies Saturday in Falmouth, Hyannis and Orleans.
“What we’re going to have at the rally is community,” said Erin Andrews of Centerville, an organizer of the rally scheduled for 2 to 4:30 p.m., at the Hyannis Rotary.
It’s about “being able to see the faces of people in the community who support reproductive justice,” she said.
“Bans Off Our Bodies” rallies are also scheduled for 1 to 3 p.m. at the Orleans rotary and for 1:30 p.m. on the Falmouth Town Green.
Organizers say that while Massachusetts enshrined women’s right to abortion in state law in December of 2020 with the “Roe Act,” they are rallying to support women in states where the choice to terminate a pregnancy is banned or imperiled.
And they say the movement to protect women’s right to abortion is expanding to include a spectrum of reproductive equity issues, including the right to health care for pregnant women.
Andrews said she participated in October in a Bans Off Our Bodies protest, also at the Hyannis Rotary, one month after a Texas law prohibiting abortion once a fetal heartbeat was detected — usually at about six weeks — went into effect.
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The newest round of rallies was inspired by a leaked Supreme Court draft ruling published on May 2 in Politico. The draft indicated the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that secured women’s right to abortion without excessive government interference would soon be overturned.
“This feels a bit closer to home,” Andrews said about the planned Cape rallies.
The abortion-rights debate affects millions of women and families, said Penelope Duby of Falmouth, chair of the Upper Cape Women’s Coalition, which is helping to organize Saturday’s rally on the Falmouth Town Green.
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“One of four women in this country (has) terminated a pregnancy,” Duby said. “Everybody loves somebody who’s had an abortion.”
Duby said powerful interests are seeking to suppress women by banning abortion, which usually goes hand in hand with restricting access to birth control medications and devices whose development freed women to enter professions and politics in unprecedented numbers.
“Somebody benefits by limiting women’s rights,” Duby said. “Our very autonomy and agency is on the line.”
The Rev. Dr. Joan Martin, part-time pastor of the Christian Union Church in North Truro, said she is concerned that overturning Roe v. Wade and leaving abortion issues to states would deprive many women in the United States of their constitutional rights.
‘It’s a power issue’
Speaking as an individual and not on behalf of the church, Martin said the debate illuminates “the hatred of women being in control of anything.”
Martin said that as an African-American she is concerned that the movement that calls itself pro-life is not granting women full human rights, just as the personhood of formerly enslaved people was violated by restrictions written into law.
People considered full human beings have the right to make decisions for themselves regarding their spiritual, emotional and physical life, Martin said.
The move against abortion for at least 15 to 20 years has coincided with the recognition that people of color will become more populous than white, European-Americans, Martin said.
She said eliminating the right to choose and weakening voter registration are ways to suppress the influence of people of color.
“It’s a power issue,” Martin said.
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Policy experts say that about half of women of childbearing age in the United States could be affected if Roe v. Wade is overturned due to banned or heavily restricted access to abortions.
The May 2 news that a leaked Supreme Court draft decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade galvanized abortion rights supporters almost instantly, with rallies being held the next day, May 3, across the country including in Provincetown and Falmouth.
Duby said the May 3 rally in Falmouth attracted 90 people; she said 120 individuals already have registered for Saturday’s event.
The rallies scheduled for Saturday are part of a wave of “Bans Off Our Bodies” rallies being held across the U.S. the same day, including in Tisbury, Wareham and Plymouth.
The news about the leaked decision also prompted two Barnstable High School sophomores, Olivia Jonsson and Ava Lubash, to lead a walkout at 1:13 p.m., Tuesday, outside the high school’s main entrance.
Jonsson said they picked 1:13 p.m. because the numerals are part of the Wade legal citation, 410 U.S. 113.
A teacher estimated that approximately 400 students joined them outside, Jonsson said. The group seemed equally split between female and male students.
Students: Women’s rights are human rights
“I did not expect that much support,” Jonsson said. “Our goal was basically to educate people and get people inspired.”
Students chanted, “My body, my choice,” and “Women’s rights are human rights.”
Some young men standing at the top of the stairwell as students returned to school said abortion should be illegal, but there were no confrontations, Jonsson said.
“I know doing a school walkout wouldn’t change the Supreme Court decision. But I knew I had to do something,” Lubash said.
Andrews said she anticipates women from other states seeking to terminate their pregnancies will travel to Massachusetts for abortions.
“That’s a greater cost to the health care system,” she said.
It also means Massachusetts may have to expand the number of clinics and nurses and doctors available to provide services for women seeking abortions, Andrews said.
Other considerations are protecting the rights of people who help pregnant women get abortions, including medical professionals and Uber drivers, she said.
In what Andrews and others are considering a nod to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, a Missouri anti-abortion bill amendment would make it a crime to help a resident get an abortion outside the state.
“It’s something the (Massachusetts) Legislature has to think ahead about,” Andrews said.
Mass. legislators eye law to protect against laws in other states
State Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, said state legislators are considering a legal shield of the type adopted in Connecticut Tuesday that would protect patients as well as abortion providers from legal action by states where abortion may be illegal in the near future.
Massachusetts lawmakers are exploring how the state can be a “beacon and sanctuary” for women who need access to reproductive health care, including abortion, Cyr said.
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“There are active conversations underway to provide protections for those who are giving this care and for those who are receiving this care.”
Duby, who said she graduated from college in Philadelphia before Roe v. Wade was enacted, had a friend who died at age 20 after seeking an abortion.
“College kids don’t know the town. It’s all word of mouth and back alley sort of stuff. She went away one night. And she just never came back. She died.” Duby said. “Everyone I know has horror stories.”
It’s important for people to get comfortable talking about abortion, she said, and the full spectrum of reproductive health issues.
Andrews said she wants to see Massachusetts pass laws requiring health coverage for abortions, post-miscarriage care and pregnancy and post-partum care.
“When you decide you want to have a family, there should be the utmost care for you from the moment you decide you want to be pregnant to after the child is born,” Andrews said.
Duby said her organization is arranging to have a representative from the Reproductive Equity Now group, formerly known as NARAL, give a talk on the Cape and explain the ramifications of the anticipated U.S. Supreme Court decision.
As for the abortion rights rally, there may be more to come after Saturday’s event, Duby said.
“We’re prepared to have one of these every couple of weeks just to raise awareness.”
Staff Writer Denise Coffey also contributed to the story.
Contact Cynthia McCormick at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @Cmccormickcct.
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