Women oppose Texas abortion law in Belgrade, Waterville

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BELGRADE – Bia Winter, 75, of Mount Vernon, and Jo Josephson, 80, of Temple, chatted as singer Andra Day’s “Rise Up” played on loudspeakers behind them and more than 60 residents of the region came together to take a stand for women’s rights and denounce recently adopted Texas anti-abortion laws they say they are taking women’s reproductive rights back centuries.

Jo Josephson of Temple attends a rally for women’s rights in Belgrade on Saturday. The protest was in response to Texas’ abortion law. Joe Phelan / Journal Kennebec

“It feels like we’ve been brought back to the dark ages,” said Winter, a veteran civil rights activist. “I wouldn’t have thought that we would still need to have these battles.”

Josephson said women have always had abortions, and always will, and that laws making them more difficult, if not impossible, to obtain legally will only mean they could not do them safely.

The Belgrade event, hosted by three local sisters, Melissa Furbush, Megan Oliver and Holly Hale, was one of many protests in Maine and hundreds across the country.

“We heard about what happened in Texas and decided we wanted to take a stand,” Furbush said. “We wanted to get together with like-minded people and raise awareness of what’s going on. So people know we’re not going to lie down and let this happen.

Texas abortion restrictions recently withstood an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, though President Joe Biden has vowed his administration will review steps the federal government could take to ensure Texas women have access to safe and legal abortions.

Texas law, signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in May, prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect heart activity, typically around six weeks old and before many women know they are pregnant.

It is the strictest anti-abortion law in the United States since Roe v. Wade of the High Court in 1973.

People wave and cheer on Saturday as a semi-trailer truck blows its horns at a rally for women’s rights in Belgrade. The protest was in response to Texas’ abortion law. Joe Phelan / Journal Kennebec

Placards held up during the Belgrade demonstration, which took place in the village square, included “Women’s rights are human rights”, “My body, my choice”, “Protect women’s health”, “Why am I? I still walking for it? “Pro-choice, Pro-love, Pro-science” and “Stop the war on women”.

Victoria Alexander from Belgrade, holding a “LIFE is Precious” sign, came to the demonstration with two friends from Sidney to protest against abortion and offer a point of view opposite to that supported by the sixty or so people present. at the event.

“It’s not just a woman’s body, when a woman gets pregnant it’s another life,” Alexander said. “They have no choice then. They don’t have the option of saying “yes, end my life”. “

Alexander said his mother got pregnant when she was 15 and chose to have him. She said Texas law does not abolish abortions, allowing them up to six weeks pregnant, but does not allow what she called “late abortions which are very horrible”.

“I am grateful to have my life standing up for others who have never had this opportunity,” she said as she stood along Highway 27, with long lines of women’s rights protesters spread out. on either side of her. There didn’t seem to be any conflicts between the two groups.

After taking group photos of the participants from the gazebo on Saturday, Holly Hale takes a selfie with other participants in Belgrade. The protest was in response to Texas’ abortion law. Joe Phelan / Journal Kennebec

Furbush said they expected there would be some form of counter-protest, but said the Belgrade event was not meant to be pro-choice or pro-life.

“We are talking about women’s rights, I’m not sure there is a counter-demonstration to that,” she said.

The event attracted mainly women, but several men, a few children and a few dogs also attended.

OTHERS ALSO RALLY

A women’s march for women’s reproductive rights in Waterville later Saturday was organized by Elizabeth Leonard and Matthew Crane. They had planned to assemble at Pleasant Street United Methodist Church and walk down Pleasant to Park Street, then to Elm Street for speeches.

Speakers were to include Mindy Bergeron-Lawrence, who performs a 13-hour solo demonstration in Waterville each summer at the Old Post Office in honor of former Texas State Senator Wendy Davis’s 13-hour filibuster in 2013 to protect rights women in matters of procreation and abortion in this state; Sonja Thomas, professor of women and gender studies at Colby College; Mary Dunn, immigration justice activist; Betsy Sweet, longtime activist, political organizer and social justice advocate; and Mareisa Weil, vice president of development and community engagement at Maine Family Planning.

“The nature of Texas law is deeper sense to our civil rights, ”Leonard said. “It’s so much more terrifying than it looks.”

Leonard, who taught history for nearly 30 years at Colby College, taught courses on the Civil War, the history and race of American women. Leonard was also an activist and organizer of the Poor People’s Campaign.

“Since I retired I’ve been a lot more active,” Leonard said. “I think Waterville and the surrounding area is full of people who want to express themselves, but don’t think they can organize things.”

Crane said hosting the event requires him to learn more about reproductive rights beyond abortion.

“As a white man, it is my duty to stand alongside those whose rights are under attack,” Crane said.


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