By Gladys B. Vargas
Boston University News Service
BOSTON – On Saturday, U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-MA 7th District) and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, along with U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and ACLU of Massachusetts President Carol Rose, joined a crowd of over 1,000 people in Roxbury’s Franklin Park to call for codifying abortion rights and promote bodily autonomy.
“We will be heard, and not deterred, because we know abortion is a right,” Rose said in her opening remarks.
The ACLU of Massachusetts joined the Rally to Defend Abortion alongside protests across the country in building support for abortion rights in the wake of Texas’ new abortion law. It bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, and in anticipation of an upcoming Supreme Court case over a Mississippi law from 2018.
The previous law, which bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy but never went into effect because of a federal appellate court decision, threatens to overthrow Roe v. Wade. An overturn would authorize state abortion bans across the country that were previously blocked.
“Like all forms of patriarchy and white supremacy, none of it – the hurt and harm – is happenstance. It is coordinated. It is legislative,” Pressley said. “This is the first majority pro-choice Congress in the history of Congress. Being in the majority has to be more than a talking point.”
Healey said a “stolen Supreme Court,” gerrymandering by Republicans, and voter suppression were all part of a historical movement against abortion rights.
“How the hell is it that eight out of ten Americans in this country support [Roe v. Wade], and yet we have Texas and we have [the] specter of twenty other states banning abortion?” Healey said. “That is anti-democratic by definition. I still believe in democracy, don’t you?”
Pressley also talked about a young girl who traveled from Texas to Oklahoma to get an abortion, fully aware that she could receive the death penalty for doing so.
“This is a matter of life and death,” Pressley said. “[Criminalizing abortions] does not mean people will stop having abortions; it means they will stop having safe, legal abortions.”
Pat Yingling, who worked as an abortion counselor in Boston in 1970-1971, spoke about former patient and friend Rosaura Jimenez, who died of pregnancy complications after she was unable to pay for an abortion.
“Her death was tragic and avoidable,” Yingling said. “October 3 marks 44 years since Rosie died. Rosie should be here with us today. I would like to ask for a moment of silence in her memory and for everyone who suffers from needless abortion restrictions.”
Tre’Andre Valentine, executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, then spoke on the intersection of transgender rights with the fight for abortion access.
“I know what it feels like to have another entity controlling your body,” Valentine said. “We work to have autonomy over our own bodies. It is not just about abortion. It is about freedom.”
Though they did not speak on stage, Boston mayoral candidates Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George were named by Rose as being in attendance.
“We are here to say that abortion rights are non-negotiable,” Senator Markey said in one of the final speeches of the event. “We will not allow the Supreme Court decision to have the last word. We will have the last word.”