Hundreds of people and one llama gathered at downtown Portland’s Terry Schrunk Plaza Tuesday afternoon to support abortion rights.
Just arrived at the #StopTheBans abortion rights rally happening at Terry Schrunk Plaza, across from City Hall. There’s a pro-choice llama here! pic.twitter.com/TtrfuRV8Qm
— Blair Stenvick (@BlairStenvick) May 21, 2019
The rally, part of a string of protests happening across the country, was organized in response to the recent hardline abortion bans passed in a growing number of states' legislatures .
As many have noted, those bans are likely part of a national conservative strategy to weaken Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that guarantees the right to an abortion. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, one of the rally’s speakers, made it a point to warn that “We can not feel safe in our bubble here in Oregon,” and promised to continue prioritizing abortion rights. Rosenblum recently defended federal funding for reproductive health clinics that provide abortions in federal court—and won.
Rosenblum was a law school student when Roe passed in 1973.
“Imagine our excitement and relief: Never again would any woman in America be subject to the back alley, or self-induced abortions that were injuring, sometimes even killing, innocent young women,” she said. “None of us could have imagined then that this law of the land would be in question over 40 years later. We’re not going to stand for it.”
Rosenblum was joined by fellow speakers from the coalition that organized the rally: NARAL Pro-Choice, the ACLU of Oregon, Planned Parenthood, Forward Together, and the Western States Center.
The high-energy crowd responded to each speaker with cheers, boos, and a lot of chants: “My body, my choice!” “Stand up, fight back!” And a call-and-response: “What is abortion? Health care! What is health care? A human right!”
Some of the loudest voices in attendance belonged to an eighth grade class from Cedarwood Waldorf School, who chose to attend the rally with their teachers.
“It’s such a relevant issue to our futures,” one Cedarwood student said when asked why it was important to attend the rally.
“We need to support women everywhere, even if it’s not impacting us personally right at this moment,” her friend added.
Cheryl Meloy, 55, also said she was there to support abortion rights everywhere.
“I’m tired of fighting for it, I have to honestly say,” she said. “I’ve been fighting for most of my life for women’s rights, but I actually feel like right now we are on the cusp of a really horrendous attack on women that even women are participating in. So I feel like I have to be here. I have to be here.”
Meloy held a sign that read “Letting religious zealots ban abortion is the definition of theocracy"—one of many pointed signs at the rally. Rather than carry a sign, attendee Katelyn Reed chose to wear her message on her shirt: “EVERYONE KNOWS I HAD AN ABORTION.”
Reed had an abortion about seven years ago, when she was 24 and felt unprepared to be a parent.
“I’m proud of that,” she said. “It was not an easy choice, but it was my choice, and I want to keep that for myself and for others. … Thankfully Planned Parenthood was there for me. It was a hard experience, but that was probably the best part of it—walking out of there and knowing that I was free.”
Toward the end of the hour-long rally, a small group of anti-abortion protestors, carrying signs with images of aborted fetuses on them, entered the rally’s fray. They were quickly matched by a much larger pro-abortion contingent, which peacefully shouted them down with chanting.
Terry Schrunk Plaza is located directly across the street from Portland City Hall, in an area that gets heavy foot traffic. The rally was easy to spot and hear from blocks away.
“Hopefully bystanders were also moved,” said Reed, “and knew we were here.”