Their chants echoed throughout Downtown Casper on Saturday afternoon.
“My Body, My Choice!”
“Hey, Ho, The Patriarchy Has To Go!”
And so on.
Such was the scene on 2nd Street, as more than a hundred men, women, children, and dogs gathered to protest the proposed overturning of the landmark Roe v. Wade case on Saturday.
The walk began at Veteran’s Park and ended at Conwell Park, where protestors gathered to listen to speeches from a variety pro choice proponents, including Wyoming State Representative (and Republican) Pat Sweeney, Circle of Hope President Julie Burkhart, and Riata Little Walker- a woman that required an abortion in order to save her own life.
Emotions were high throughout the afternoon. Proponents and opponents were on hand exchanging ideals and, in some cases, insults. But the overall mood of the day was one of peace, of love, and of acceptance.
“I think being here today and seeing the turnout just really demonstrates that this is a community that supports access to full spectrum reproductive healthcare,” said Julie Burkhart, the founder of Circle of Hope and the keynote speaker at the day’s rally.
Circle of Hope recently opened a clinic in Casper that will offer residents of Wyoming medication and procedural abortion care, depending on the results of SCOTUS’ decision about Roe v. Wade.
“We’ll see what the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately hands down,” Burkhart said. “None of us know if this leaked opinion is the true opinion, and we’ll see in a matter of weeks and then we will be strategizing our next steps and we’ll be fighting tooth and nail to make sure that people can access reproductive healthcare in the state of Wyoming.”
There’s a lot at stake when it comes to the Roe v. Wade decision; not just rights for people with uteri, but for everybody.
NRP reports that “Medical and legal experts say the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade could have implications for other reproductive rights such as contraception and IVF.”
It’s a sensitive subject, but an important one, as evidenced by the turnout of the ‘Day of Action for Reproductive Justice” march and rally.
“Everybody has an opinion about abortion,” said Riata Little Walker, one of the speakers at the event. “Until you find yourself in the impossible situation, and then you’re glad that you have choices.”
Little Walker told the crowd that she was there to speak about a side of abortion that “doesn’t get much attention.”
TFMR stands for Termination For Medical Reasons. Walker that she believes TFMR is “the bridge to bring over the logical people to the pro choice side, because they can really empathize and understand the need for abortion in these cases and in others.”
“Many of us have to keep our stories to ourselves, because we can’t handle the emotional trauma of the judgment that comes from so many,” Walker told the crowd.
Walker shared the story, her story, of having to terminate a pregnancy of a child they “desperately wanted.” She said that, about halfway through her pregnancy, she found out that her daughter was sick. Very sick. Walker said that doctors told her she was a high risk pregnancy.
“We were presented with our options and none of them was bringing our daughter home,” she stated. “We were told that we could try to carry to term, putting me at greater health risk or we could terminate the pregnancy either by a surgical procedure also known as a D&E or by induced labor, which is what we chose. But it is still considered an abortion.”
Walker said that a lot of TFMR mothers are not given the option of labor and delivery because they’re not far enough along in their pregnancy.
“These are mothers who love their babies but have to go down this road,” she stated. “They’re not even given the option because we have so many restrictions already on what we can do. And if that is considered the more humane choice – I think everyone has the right to choose what’s best for them – but if that’s considered the more humane choice, then why isn’t it a choice? We should be allowed that choice and these laws are already way too restrictive.”
Pat Sweeney, a Republican Representative of Wyoming was on hand to speak more about the laws in Wyoming regarding abortion.
“The main reason I’m here, and I’ve seen it in the six years that I’ve been in the legislature, is we, old, grumpy white men in the legislature; I just don’t think that, a lot of times, we get it,” Sweeney stated.
Similarly, Jane Ifland, one of the conveners of the rally, gave a brief history about the legislation and which Wyoming representatives voted for what laws.
“Eight anti-choice bills were introduced in 2021,” Ifland stated. “Chuck Gray was sponsor or co-sponsor of all eight of them.”
The crowd, at the sound of Mr. Gray’s name, immediately booed.
Governor Gordon, himself, signed legislation into law that would ban abortion entirely in Wyoming.
“The legislation mimics other so-called “trigger bans” across the country that will take effect automatically under specific circumstances,” a statement from ACLU regarding the Governor’s decision stated. “But House Bill 92 improperly assigns the executive branch the responsibility of enacting law based upon future hypothetical case outcomes and creates a codified, inflexible mandate that lacks clarity.”
Read More: ACLU: Governor Gordon Signed Law That Will Ban Abortion Entirely in Wyoming
What is clear, however, is that people are not willing to just lay down and let the government make these kinds of decisions. The men, women, and non-binary individuals at Conwell Park on Sunday rallied together to tell the government to “buck off our bodies.”
“You need to talk to your family, you need to talk to your friends, your coworkers, anyone you know and explain this to them, because the far-right, pro-birther propaganda has been very strong,” Riata Little Walker stated. “Remember, this is our freedom. And we have the right. And we can’t lose that, because if we lose this right, what other rights are we going to lose? It’s a very slippery slope.”
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