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‘We’re not going anywhere’: Planned Parenthood rally draws hundreds in support of reproductive rights

UPDATED: Sat., May 14, 2022

By Emma Ledbetter For Spokesman-Review

Nearly 1,000 people gathered Saturday evening in Spokane’s Riverfront Park to protest the Supreme Court’s expected reversal of Roe v. Wade.

Spokane’s “Bans Off Our Bodies” rally, which was organized by Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, was one of nearly 400 events across the country Saturday as part of a nationwide day of action in support of a constitutional right to abortion. Protesters held signs with phrases like “my body, my choice” and “abortion is health care” and chanted “the people united will never be divided.”

Several speakers, including Planned Parenthood staff and students at Washington State University’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, spoke near the Red Wagon, sharing their thoughts about how the expected Supreme Court decision would lead to unsafe abortions, rather than stopping pregnant people from having the procedure.

Protesters Akua Lum and Marilyn Sullivan said they came to the rally because they are angry, not just about Roe v. Wade, but about all the other rights that could be in jeopardy.

Legal scholars have indicated the leaked draft decision could have implications on issues tied legally to the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, including same-sex marriage and contraception.

“I’ve had an abortion. It was my right and my choice, and now men – and women too – are trying to take that away from me,” Lum said. “Contraception was always expensive, but at least we had it.”

Lum said she was protesting in memory of Sarah Weddington, the attorney who represented “Jane Roe” in Roe v. Wade. Lum believes Weddington knew before she died in December 2021 that the rights provided by the case were at risk of being overturned.

The Supreme Court’s draft majority opinion published by Politico on May 2 indicates the court may strike down the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that set the precedent for abortion rights. The draft opinion – if made official – would return the issue to state governments. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 26 states are likely to ban abortion, forcing women to travel to states where abortion is legal for care.

Clinics in Spokane are already seeing the impacts of patients traveling from Idaho, said Paul Dillon, event organizer and vice president of public affairs at Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho.

A study from the Guttmacher Institute predicts Washington, which is committed to remaining a ”sanctuary” state for abortion rights, could see up to a 385% increase in out-of-state patients seeking abortion care. This will increase patient wait times, create more economic hardships and put a larger burden on patients who have to travel from outside of Washington for an already time-sensitive procedure, Dillon said.

“It’s quite frankly devastating – there’s no other way to put it,” he said. “We’re not going anywhere, and we’re going to keep doing everything we can to provide care to patients no matter where they’re from.”

Planned Parenthood is encouraging people to share their experiences accessing abortion and reproductive rights because it inspires others to take action, Dillon said.

Protester Havivah Giangreco said she hopes events like this will help create awareness about health care and bridge the gap between two deeply divided sides.

“It’s not just we want to kill babies – that’s not at all the desire from anybody’s point of view,” Giangreco said. “[We’re] making it clear to people that are really opposing it that it’s your choice to make if you don’t want to do it, but other people have the right to make their own choice as well.”

Protesters Andrew and Kit Parker brought their two children, Margot, 5, and Jamie, 2, to the rally because they want to support equality and women’s rights.

Even though Eastern Washington is often seen as conservative, not everyone has a conservative belief about abortion, Andrew Parker said.

The issue is deeply emotional for Kit Parker, who said she would start crying if she tried to explain all the reasons she attended Saturday’s rally. The number of people present at the rally was encouraging, she said.

At the end of the rally, several hundred protesters marched from the park to the Thomas S. Foley United States Courthouse where they chanted “bans off our bodies.”

Protesters chatted as they dispersed carrying their homemade signs down Riverside Avenue.

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