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Impassioned speeches, counter-protestors, and politically pointed make-out sessions: A weekend of women's rights rallies

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Photo by Lindsey Anderson
Photo by Lindsey Anderson

Day 1: Tough women, tender moments
On Saturday, October 2, hundreds of people gathered in front of Seattle's Westlake Center to protest recent attacks on women's reproductive rights. Outrage sparked across the country after Texas passed the "heartbeat bill," making it illegal for people in the state of Texas to receive an abortion after six weeks into their pregnancy. Although the law applies only to Texans, people across the country see it as an overt attack on women's rights everywhere and fear it could lead to federal challenges against Roe v. Wade.

Before an audience in pink hats, the gathering in Downtown Seattle started with a performance by Filthy FemCorps, which bills itself as Seattle's "all-women and Nonbinary brass band." The event boasted a strong line-up of speakers, starting with Christine Reeves, former state representative and founder of the Political Equity Project. Reeves shared an emotional story with the crowd detailing the three times she had sought an abortion, reminding those in attendance that anyone from any walk of life could need an abortion.

"Now I am a mom and a better mom because I was able to make that choice. What I choose to let grow inside my body is my choice," Reeves said before giving a call to action to do away with crisis pregnancy clinics in Washington state.

Next, Alexis Turla, the chief of staff to City Council Member Tammy Morales, took to the stage. Turla told the audience about her family history and her origins in the South, and she shared an appreciation for the state of Washington "where Roe is on the books." But she also warned that "the fight is not over. They hate you whether you want an abortion or are trying to have a family. Enough! Enough about regulating our bodies!" She prompted cheers from the crowd when she continued with a sneak peek into the future state congressional session, "In this next session, we will be bringing a bill to make sure that insurance covers fertility. We need this for everyone. No matter if you're in a same-sex relationship, a Nonbinary relationship, or a hetero relationship, you should have the right to decide when you want to have a family."

The event continued as speakers called on voters to repeal the Hyde Amendment and Title 42, help create systems that help undocumented women have equal access to healthcare, and help fund Planned Parenthood.

Photo by Lindsey Anderson  

The rally concluded with a speech from Nikkita Oliver, candidate for City Council position 9. They first brought up the issue of Native and Black sovereignty, reminding the crowd, "This fight for bodily autonomy and reproductive justice is not new to us. I think it is important when we talk about intersectionality when we talk about reproductive justice that we really honor the historical harm and trauma experienced by Black and Native people on Turtle Island at the hands of a white settler colonial government that is putting its patriarchal, racist, and classist policies at its inception." They called on those in attendance to reflect on how far we have to go in healing the historical and present-day harm of a government that desires to control other people's bodies.
Oliver surprised the audience by sharing a personal story that they had not yet talked about publicly: "I believe that abortion is a public health approach to public safety, and here's why." They went on to describe a time when they were in an abusive relationship with a man seventeen years older than them. "Like many people socialized as women, I thought that I had to be his caretaker. And I was afraid to ask for help, both from the Christian organization I worked with as well as to call the police because I know what happens when we call 911 on Black people. There were no services and no supports to me when I needed them." As their relationship became more volatile, their partner made coercive threats, attempting to permanently trap them in the relationship. "He threatened to get me pregnant so that I couldn't leave. So I went to Planned Parenthood, and I got an IUD put in without telling him. I am really thankful that I had access to medical care to do that. It was lifesaving. Because, while it may take many years for a domestic violence survivor to leave a space, the last thing we want is for them to have to be forever attached to someone who abused them, through a child." They explained how access to abortion is vital for people in domestic violence situations, and that it can mean the difference between life or death.

The speakers left a thrill in the air, energizing the crowd and encouraging more folks to come forward and share stories of their own. The atmosphere was full of love, support, and determination, mirroring 600 other reproductive justice rallies happening across the country.

Photo by Lindsey Anderson  

Day 2: Pro-lifers bite back
On Sunday, October 3, a crowd gathered again to support women's reproductive rights and protest the new Texas laws. This crowd, huddled together in front of St. James Cathedral, had a much different aura. Picketing in front of the church, people held handmade signs and engaged in chants of "Keep your rosaries off our ovaries!"

Unlike Saturday's rally, Sunday's brought in a fleet of counter-protesters. An all-male group of pro-life advocates held up signs depicting chicken-wing-looking fetuses with phrases like "Mommy don't murder me" and "Ask me why you're going to hell." The counter-protesters brought a microphone and passed it around in a circle while condemning everything from abortion to same-sex marriage.

At one point, two women approached a counter-protester slandering the LGBTQ+ community and they began making out with each other. He covered his eyes, but when he tried to run away, one of the women flashed her chest at him. Horrified, the man ran to hide and began screaming incomprehensible words into his microphone.

As the march began, a white car pulled into the street in front of the church. Organizers warned protesters to step away from the street, indicating that the driver had already attempted to initiate violence earlier in the event. A man got out and pushed his way into the crowd before organizers could follow him.

Photo by Lindsey Anderson  

The march began around 2:30 p.m. with protesters and counter-protesters walking through the streets toward the Federal Courthouse. A fleet of vehicles drove alongside the marchers, protecting them from counter-protesters who have a history of running cars into crowds at such events.

Halfway through the march, the man who had emerged from his vehicle earlier now attempted to start a physical altercation with protesters. Four volunteers quickly surrounded him and escorted him off the premises.

Photo by Lindsey Anderson  

The fleet of protesters arrived at the Federal Courthouse building at 4 p.m., taking to the steps for individual speakers and chants. However, counter-protesters quickly overtook them, chanting on their bullhorns, "Repeal the 19th!"

March organizers were eventually able to remove the counter-protesters from the steps of the building, and speakers were able to share their stories and echo the sentiments from the day before. The slander and slurs from the pro-life group did not deter the women's rights advocates, but many left with hoarse voices after hours of screaming to be heard over all the hate.

Photo by Lindsey Anderson  

The weekend's double feature of women's reproductive justice rallies showed that many in Seattle feel strongly about the abortion debate in Texas. Saturday's event was a reminder to many that there are still battles to be fought and that abortion is healthcare for a myriad of reasons. Sunday's march was a wake-up call, casting a light on the men who use their voices to oppose progress and women's rights. The weekend gave a face to both sides of the argument, leaving many determined to take action now.

To get more involved with the fight for reproductive justice, you can visit https://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/issues/act to donate money or become an active member.

If you or someone you know is in need of affordable sexual healthcare, you can visit Planned Parenthood at any of these locations:

2001 E Madison
Seattle, WA 98122

5020 Roosevelt Way NE
Seattle, WA 98105

9942 8th Avenue SW
Seattle, WA 98106

1200 N. Northgate Way
Seattle, WA 98133

14730 NE 8th St.
Bellevue, WA 98007

723 NE Riddell Road, Suite A
Bremerton, WA 98310

19505 76th Ave W. 200
Lynnwood, WA 98036

1105 S 348th Street #B103
Federal Way, WA 98003

1515 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
Tacoma, WA 98405

1509 32nd St.
Everett, WA 98201