Activists rally for abortion access: ‘We believe in reproductive rights’

Oct 3, 2021

Disbelief and anger were among the central emotions expressed by abortion access activists who gathered in Wareham this weekend. 

“We fought about this in the 60s, and thought it was settled law,” said Sandy Keese of Rochester. “And now we’re fighting for the same damn thing all over again. It’s not about abortion, it’s not about having babies — it’s about having choice.”

She wasn’t the only one who’d thought similarly.

“I remember doing this in 1980,” said Wareham resident Sandy Cormier. “I took a break, and I never thought that I’d come back to this again — this subject, this topic.”

Cormier, who helped organize the rally, and Keese were among about 30 people who gathered outside Town Hall on Saturday, Oct. 2, to show their support for abortion access.

The group lined Marion Road, cheering and waving signs at passing drivers. An ambulance driver and a GATRA bus driver were among dozens of drivers who honked their horns or flashed their lights to show their support for the abortion activists.

The Wareham rally was part of a nationwide movement, sparked by a Texas law that bans abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. The law is among the most restrictive in the country, and on Oct. 2 — about a month after the law went into effect — thousands took to the streets at hundreds of marches and rallies across the U.S. in protest. 

A lone counter-protester also turned up near the Wareham rally to share a pro-life message. 

‘Abortion is nothing but medical care’

Diane Kenney, a Wareham resident, helped organize the rally by spreading the word on Facebook and registering the event on the national Women’s March site. She said she was “thrilled” with the number of people who showed up.

“The only medical procedure that people are allowed to have an opinion about, and talk about, and stop is abortion,” Kenney said. “Abortion is nothing but medical care. [...] No one’s forcing anyone to get an abortion,” she added. “The women that choose to should be able to get that medical care that they need.”

Cormier recalled being 18 and turning to Planned Parenthood for help.

“I went away for college — so I was alone, and Planned Parenthood was there,” Cormier said. “I had gotten pregnant when I was 18, and I didn’t want to have the child.”

She said she had an abortion. But Planned Parenthood’s help didn’t stop there, she added. 

“They also put me on birth control (for) free, and that was so important back then,” Cormier said. “The two go together. You have to teach women how to use birth control.” 

Alyssa Welch, a Falmouth resident and Minot Forest Elementary School teacher, said reproductive rights are human rights — for cis women and for trans men (cis refers to women whose gender identity and expression align with the sex they were assigned at birth)

“I think that people with uteruses should decide whether or not they themselves want to reproduce with them,” Welch said. “It’s not just a women’s issue. It’s a human rights issue.”

Mary Stanton of Wareham said that she was “staunchly pro-abortion,” not just pro-choice.

“Just like I’d be pro-chemo or any other medical procedure that people need,” she said. 

‘I’m angry’

Protesters expressed deep frustration with the lawmakers — men, in particular — who have supported efforts to restrict abortion access.

Wareham resident Teresa Norton said she has five sisters and three nieces. She said she wants them all to have “the right to do what they want to do with their own bodies.”

“And I’m angry — that’s why I’m here too,” she said. “Because who’s to say what I can do — or any woman can do. It’s all rich white men in Texas, of all places.”

Jody Santagate brought her infant granddaughter Giavanna Hendricks to the protest because she said changes to the law will affect Giavanna when she’s older.

“The government and — people will probably be mad if I say this, but — men, if this is allowed to continue further, they’re just going to push women’s rights backwards,” she said. “It wasn’t that long ago that women weren’t even allowed to vote.”

Onset resident Sharon Robinson said that laws restricting abortion access and incentivizing lawsuits against those who help provide access to abortions were “just not right.”

“They have no right to force us to do things with our body,” she said.

‘He came here for this’

Although Wareham residents organized the rally, people came from far and wide to show their support for reproductive healthcare. 

Cormier said she wanted to have a rally in her town because she finds it difficult to travel elsewhere for political demonstrations.

“But we had a gentleman who pulled in from Taunton,” she said. “And he said he couldn’t find anything closer than Wareham, so that’s amazing. He came here for this.”

Keese said she’d invited friends from the Cape to the rally in Wareham. 

Carie Bernard of Portland, Maine, was in Massachusetts on a trip and found the Wareham rally for abortion access on the Women’s March website, where it was registered. 

“I was like, ‘I’m not going to miss out just because I’m not in my hometown,’” Bernard said.

‘No justice in abortion’

Wareham resident Lisa Rhue staged a counter-protest, standing alone on Marion Road not far from the group of pro-abortion activists.

Rhue said she’d “always been pro-life” but noted that her decision to show up at the rally to counter-protest was “all on a whim.”

She said her faith and belief in God were behind her pro-life stance. Rather than abortions, Rhue advocated for preventing pregnancy — either by not having sex or even by using birth control. 

“I don’t believe there’s justice in abortion,” she said. “Don’t get pregnant, then you don’t have to have an abortion. [...] You can’t kill human life. God creates life, and God takes life. It’s that simple for me.”