Protesters gathered on the Capitol’s steps Thursday evening as a part of the #StopTheBans movement, which advocates for safe, legal and affordable abortion options.
Madison’s chapters of the National Organization for Women, Women’s Medical Fund Wisconsin, Women’s March Wisconsin, Indivisible Madison and Madison Abortion Defense organized the protest. Protesters gathered around the country after Missouri, Georgia and Alabama passed laws which, if Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case which confirmed the legality of abortion, is overturned, would restrict abortion and enforce penalties for performing or getting an abortion.
The protest featured speakers including Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison and Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison. Mara Jarvis, chapter president of NOW read a statement from Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.
“Republican legislators are working furiously to strip away women’s constitutional rights,” Jarvis read from Rhodes-Conway’s statement. “Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell are aiding and abetting them by appointing judges who may seek to overturn Roe v. Wade. This is nothing but a full-scale attack on women’s rights to health.”
All three representatives said politics should not play a role in whether or not a woman can get an abortion. Taylor, Subeck and Sargent each said abortion is a personal choice which should be made by the woman considering it.
Sargent said women must have the “freedom and opportunity” to make the best decisions for themselves, and in order for that to happen, lawmakers must trust science and individual choice.
“We are here today because we know it is morally imperative that we stand up for abortion rights,” Sargent said. “We know that people must be able to make their own healthcare decisions, including whether and when to become a parent.”
At the base of the steps, a handful of self-proclaimed abolitionist counter-protesters held signs with slogans like “Abortion protects pedophiles and encourages date rapists,” and showed pictures of bloody fetuses. These counter-protesters, including Michaeljon Murphy, said they were there to show that women are not the only ones in danger from both legal and illegal abortion.
“We’re here showing that babies are dying every single day, not just a hypothetical situation, literally dying every day by the thousands,” Murphy said.
#StopTheBans protesters said they wanted to remind Wisconsin’s Republican legislature that women have a right to choose what to do with their bodies in the face of four anti-abortion bills which passed the State Assembly and can now go to the State Senate, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Gov. Tony Evers has stated he will not sign any legislation which would restrict abortion, MJS reported.
Taylor said legislators passing these bills in Wisconsin are not pro-life, but pro-birth — meaning they care more about a baby being born than that baby’s — or mother’s — health after it is born. Republican legislators’ refusal to support the expansion of Medicaid shows this idea, Taylor said.
“These bills were about humiliating and criminalizing and shaming women and we are here tonight to say no way,” Taylor said. “In the same breath that my Republican colleagues stand up and vilify women, they refuse to expand Medicaid, and that would save people’s lives.”
Protesters also staged a die-in, where they laid on the Capitol steps to show the number of people in danger if abortion becomes illegal or has strict restrictions placed on it. Access to legal abortion keeps women safe because illegal abortions can often be dangerous, protesters said.
— Reina Werth (@werth_reina) May 24, 2019
Speakers during the die-in shared their stories of abortion, some explaining why they had one, some sharing why they didn’t, but all reaffirmed that every person should have the right to choose for themselves.
“When the question comes who decides, you decide for yourself, I decide for myself,” Subeck said. “[Speaker] Robin Vos … doesn’t get to decide for you or me.”