In `1972, Michigan resident Amy Nowland flew to New York, where the most permissive women’s reproductive health laws in the country existed at the time, to undergo an abortion. Nowland received the procedure a year prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade, a 1973 landmark decision declaring that the Consitution granted all women the liberty to have an abortion.
Nowland, who spoke in front of a crowd at a Women’s March protest on Saturday, recalled her mother’s disapproval, saying she would not fly to New York with Nowland and instead sent a friend with her. When she returned to Michigan after the procedure, Nowland said her mother refused to talk to her about the experience.
“I did not grieve having the abortion,” Nowland said. “I grieved the little 17-year-old that had to do it on her own.”
Nowland was one of the hundreds gathered at the protest in front of the Federal Building in Ann Arbor, rallying for the protection of reproductive rights for women.
The protest in Ann Arbor was one of over 600 Women’s Marches across the country on Saturday. These protests are in response to the passage of Texas Senate Bill 8, also known as the Texas Heartbeat Act, in September, which banned nearly all abortions in the state. The act prohibits all abortions in which cardiac activity is present, which usually occurs after six weeks of fetal development.
Last month, the Justice Department sued Texas over the law, arguing that its intent was to violate the constitution. A federal judge heard from lawyers representing the State of Texas and the Justice Department on Friday, debating whether or not to pause the ban while the courts determine its legality.
In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court decided not to block the law last month, shortly after it went into effect.
The Supreme Court is set to begin a new term on Monday. The Women’s March was part of a national call by some to defend women’s reproductive rights before the Court’s new session begins.
Multiple speakers — including U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., Lori Carpentier, CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, and Rackham student Leanna Papp — took the stage to provide motivational messages and their own personal narratives.
Corky Wa, the host of the Ann Arbor protest, began the march by highlighting the importance of intersectional identities in women’s reproductive rights.
“In our rally today, we stand with our Black, Latinx, queer and Indigenous families who are disproportionally represented,” Wa said.
Research has confirmed abortion rates are higher for women of color, with lower incomes and less education, due to systemic inequalities in access to healthcare, living and working conditions and racial discrimination. Studies show these social circumstances are responsible for more negative health outcomes in general for people of color and people of low socioeconomic status.
The march promoted a general message of inclusivity, and Wa stressed the importance of male allyship in the journey towards reproductive equality. Wa also emphasized how accessibility to reproductive health care can vary across different demographics and encouraged marchers to pursue greater equity.
“It is our responsibility to ensure that every woman, no matter what your income is, no matter who you are, that you can have access to comprehensive, accessible health care,” Wa said.
Carpentier said she believes it is especially important to increase accessibility to abortions and other reproductive care for individuals of lower socioeconomic status.
“The people that should be foremost in our minds are the people who this law is going to hurt the most,” Carpentier said. “People with lower incomes, Black and brown women, people who’ve been marginalized.”
LSA senior Charanya Rengarajan, a member of the Women’s Organization on Rights to Health, attended the protest with the organization. Rengarajan said she came to stand up for what she believes in and express support for women’s reproductive rights.
“We’re all very passionate about women’s reproductive equity, taking an intersectional feminist lens on all these issues and that’s what brought us here,” Rengarajan said.
U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Mich., was also present at the rally. Stevens told the crowd she believes it is critical to encourage voting for women’s reproductive rights and stressed the political significance of southeastern Michigan.
“I hold that voting card,” Stevens said. “It’s about the size of a driver’s license. And, yet, it is heavy with the weight of expectations, and we cannot stop.”
Daily Staff Reporter Liz Hwang can be reached at email@example.com.