Thousands rally for abortion rights
Thousands gathered in downtown Boston Friday evening expressing grief, anger and frustration over the Supreme Court’s decision to reverse Roe v. Wade and end federal protection of abortion rights.
The decision, which was leaked in documents last month, was made official Friday morning sparking protests across the country — including states like Massachusetts where abortion will remain protected. Several states with “trigger laws” are facing an immediate outlawing of abortion procedures, while others will see restrictions come into effect in the near future.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, in response to the ruling, signed an executive order protecting abortion rights for Bay Staters.
“In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, it is especially important to ensure that Massachusetts providers can continue to provide reproductive health care services without concern that the laws of other states may be used to interfere with those services or sanction them for providing services that are lawful in the Commonwealth,” he told press.
Actions began around 5 p.m. with dozens gathering around the Park Street T station led by the group Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights — a national pro-choice organization whose Boston chapter has been active in the wake of the May leak.
“This is unconscionable and we put a stain on society and the consciousness of everybody who goes along with it,” Rise Up organizer Kathy Lawrence told the crowd. “We refuse to be bystanders as the state shatters women’s lives.”
Following brief speeches, rally-goers armed with homemade signs, flags, jewelry and body paint departed the Common for Copley Square where they joined hundreds of others waiting to hear from activists and organizers.
Beatrice Chrystall, a mother of teenage daughters was among the crowd outside the Boston Public Library, surrounded by her girls as they listened and chanted.
“I wanted them to see that it’s important to be an involved citizen, and, you know, say your piece if it’s something you really feel strongly about,” she said. “It’s completely appalling. I thought this whole country was meant to be based on the separation of church and state. And this, to me, this is just people putting Christian values on the whole country when that is totally inappropriate.”
The speeches at Copley were organized by the Boston Liberation Center, an arm of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (Boston PSL). Many of them centered the connectivity of social issues, and the need for those gathered to harness the momentum of the moment.
Kim Barzola, a Boston PSL organizer, told the thousands gathered, “we cannot stop our fight here. We need to demand the right to abortion. We need to demand the right to housing. We need to demand the right to education.”
Other speakers included Gabby Ballard, another PSL organizer, who told the crowd she is “sick and tired of being sick and tired” and asked how long marginalized groups are willing to take the inequality.
In addition to political advocates, medical professionals made their presence known during Friday’s action. One was Lara, an abortion provider with Planned Parenthood who declined to use her last name. She spoke to the crowd, recounting her experience hearing the news of the court’s decision while simultaneously providing care to patients.
“Our team took all [of] three minutes to hug each other, be silent and present with each other and collect ourselves before continuing to serve the patients waiting to be seen,” she said. “Today is a difficult day for many of us but I hope you leave here demanding firm action from your lawmakers and knowing that you have the ability to take action yourself.”
Standing alongside Lara and the other demonstrators, a group in lab coats and scrubs from Boston Medical Center had the message written across their backs that abortion is healthcare – healthcare that one of the doctors said is vital.
“I think it’s absolutely a fundamental human right,” said Dr. Brett Lewis, a Family Medicine-Psychiatry resident. “The impact that [safe abortion] has had on people around the world is really profound. So I’m here to protect my patients,” she said.
Friday’s action ended with demonstrators taking to the streets and marching back to the Massachusetts State House where more speeches and chants were heard.
Cries of “my body, my choice” and “abort the court” reverberated through downtown, while onlookers from local restaurants and businesses stared back with a mix of interest, sadness and camaraderie. Some employees took the opportunity to join in or give conciliatory thumbs-up.
Crowds finally dispersed close to 8 p.m.