More than 100 turnout for rally on Ashland Plaza; abortion remains legal in Oregon
By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news
It was an emotional day for Ashland resident Katharine Lang.
Lang said she tried to get some of her Ashland friends to join the 100 or more people who turned out for a rally on the Plaza Friday evening in response to the announcement that morning that the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned the Roe v. Wade decision that recognized a constitutional right to abortion.
Friends that Lang called couldn’t make it to the rally. For her, “it was either attend the rally or just sit home and cry.”
Deciding to do something, she stood among the crowd, holding a graphic sign with what appeared to be blood dripping from a hanger. The personal connections for her, and many others of all ages at the Ashland rally and others like it around the country this weekend, run deep.
Lang had three high school friends who had “back alley abortions” prior to the Roe v. Wade decision handed down in 1973. One, 17 at the time, nearly died and lost her reproductive system in the process.
“They (my friends) didn’t use a coat hanger, but they went into Chicago and paid $500 to a butcher,” Lang said.
“I was just so horrified,” Lang said. “When Roe v. Wade came about, I’m like, ‘Thank God, nobody’s going to die because of these illegal abortions or self-inflicted abortions.’”
The experiences her friends endured were fresh in her mind Friday as she stood in solidarity with others, each with their own personal stories to tell. She said most women she knew who had abortions didn’t use it as “a form of birth control.”
“Nobody gets an abortion lightly, and to tell a woman that she can’t make that decision … it’s cruel and unusual punishment,” Lang said.
Now that the issue has returned to center stage, Lang called it, “devastating.”
“What I’m concerned about is this is just the beginning,” she said. “Next it’s going to be gay marriage or LGBTQ rights or even the right to get contraception they’re saying is even becoming an issue, so … We need to fight back.”
“We need to organize,” she added. “We need to get out the vote, we need to support senatorial and gubernatorial campaigns that are fighting back against this tidal wave of ugliness.”
Hers and other’s concerns regarding the rollback of additional rights stem from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas calling for overturning constitutional rights the court had affirmed for access to contraceptives and LGBTQ rights as part of an opinion he wrote concurring with the court majority, according to The Hill.
As rally goers clapped and chanted, “Our bodies, our choice,” several participants shared with Ashland.news similar concerns that the Supreme Court opinion could set a precedent for more rights to be taken away.
Adri Newman, 19, who identifies as non-binary, shared similar concerns that LGBTQ people could eventually lose their rights. The 2021 Ashland High School graduate held up a sign saying, “Respect my existence or expect my resistance.”
“As somebody that doesn’t identify as female, it’s (abortion’s) still my right, and it’s unfortunate that it’s being taken away,” Newman said, “and that we’re just taking a step back.
“It’s literally healthcare,” they added.
State Rep. Pam Marsh (D-Ashland), also at the rally, told Ashland.news she believes that overturning the ruling is “incomprehensible.” She shared concerns that protections that have been in place for her entire adult life will be “ripped away” for those in states where it could be outlawed, including Idaho.
“We’ve actually had 50 years where we’ve seen the benefit of reproductive choice and now all of a sudden, we don’t have it in many parts of the country,” Marsh said.
She emphasized that, following the Supreme Court decision, abortion remains legal in Oregon, but shared solidarity with fellow sign-holders as she, too, protested the decision.
“As devastating as this news is … abortion is legal and available in Oregon,” Marsh said. “There is no reason to think it’ll go away, except that this is a political environment and the people that are in charge make the rules. So we should not take that for granted in any way.”
Marsh believes the laws allowing abortion in Oregon are very strong, but she still seeds a need to take a look at the situation and make sure all aspects have been addressed, such as protections for providers around the state who provide abortions.
Marsh said she has heard of other states enacting penalties for providers who conduct abortions.
“We have to ensure that our people are protected,” Marsh said.
In the Oregon Legislature’s short session, $15 million was allocated to make sure that individuals who are in need of an abortion but need money for transportation and childcare for their children or the multiple expenses associated with getting an abortion, according to Marsh.
“So, Oregon is stepping up,” Marsh said. “We’re going to be here for people who have to travel from other states.”
Marsh said she’d anticipated the decision to come near the end of June, but wasn’t expecting it to be announced Friday.
“Still, it was horrible to open up my computer and see the news in black and white,” she said.
The gathering was organized by Southern Oregon Women’s March and Oregon District 2 Indivisible.
More about the history of Roe v. Wade is available at history.com/topics/womens-rights/roe-v-wade.
Reach Ashland.news reporter Holly Dillemuth by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.