Despite the 90-degree heat, a number of people lined the sidewalk at the corner of Virginia Avenue and Daniel’s Creek Road in Collinsville last Thursday to protest the recent Supreme Court decision in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The decision overturned Roe v. Wade and held that the constitution does not confer a right to abortion, returning the authority to regulate abortion to the states. Of the dozen or so protesters gathered last Thursday, all were there to express their dissatisfaction with the Court’s decision, and some stated they were fearful that this decision could just be the tip of the iceberg in terms of stripping groups of their rights.
“I’m out here because I refuse to be treated like a second-class citizen or to be treated like breeding stock,” said protester Ashleigh Pritchard. “I demand from my government that they protect my right to my bodily autonomy and to determine what my body is used for.”
In addition to attending the protest, she promotes activism in her social circles and through her business, Charmcat, Pritchard said.
She encouraged people to vote in upcoming elections to ensure their voices would be heard at the polls.
“One of the biggest problems with voting is most of us don’t vote because we’ve somehow decided that what happens to other people doesn’t matter, so why should we vote?”
Some people, she said, seem to believe, “’I’m not a gay person, I’m never going to need an abortion, so why should I care?’ They’re going to come for you eventually,” she warned. “So, vote, and vote in the primaries so that we have better options in the general election and we’re not choosing the lesser of two evils anymore.”
Melody Cartwright said she graduated from Martinsville High School in 1975, just two years after the Roe v. Wade decision.
“All of my life, I enjoyed federally protected rights which have now been turned over,” she said.
Though, at the age of 65 she can no longer have children, Cartwright said, “I have a daughter who is 25 years old. This sort of thing is just so crushing to women who care and want to have the right to do their own family planning. No one wants abortion. No one is for abortion. No one. We’re pro-life, actually. We want people to have children when they want them. It’s a great thing.”
However, she noted, abortion should be available for “those who don’t want to have children, who can’t afford to have children right now, or people who have accidents.”
She said she was “heartbroken” by the Supreme Court’s decision, “but we knew it was going to happen” because it is used as a political topic. (Former President Barack) “Obama said he was going to codify it. It was one of his platforms. Did he do it? No. And you know why? Everybody thought it was protected, it was a sure thing, it was an ace in the hole, and it was not. Now we really need to fight.”
Cartwright said she was pleased that a number of men were on the protest line, because the right to abortion was not just a gender issue. “It’s a human rights issue.”
She said that she also hoped to attend larger protests in other areas and has already been in contact with her representatives but was dissatisfied with the response she received.
“They just give you a form letter. Do something. Do something because this is serious,” she demanded.
Like Pritchard, Cartwright said she is concerned about future decisions handed down by the court.
“They’re going to start taking away more than just abortion rights,” she said, prompting a discussion between herself and Pritchard about the concurring opinion filed by Justice Clarence Thomas in the Dobbs decision.
In that opinion, Thomas mentioned three other cases that relied on the same legal arguments as Roe: Griswold v. Connecticut, which found married couples had a right to contraception; Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down laws against sodomy and made same-sex sexual activity legal in the U.S.; and Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized gay marriage.
He wrote that, “in future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergfell” as the court had a duty to “’correct the error’ established in those precedents.”
Further, “After overruling these demonstrably erroneous decisions, the question would remain whether other constitutional provisions guarantee the myriad rights that our substantive due process clause have generated.”
“If they’re taking away Roe v. Wade, they could take away anything,” said protestor Chandler Roberts. “They (the Supreme Court) can do whatever they want and it’s too much power.”
Protest organizer Benjamin Compson-Lawson said he was already planning a new sign that would read “LGBTQ, they’re coming for you,” as a warning to the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer community that their rights may come under attack.
Compson-Lawson said he chose to protest because, “I believe that all people with uteruses deserve more bodily autonomy than dead bodies. A dead body cannot be forced to relinquish its organs, even though it might save a life. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court and a number of states would have women and other people with uteruses giving birth just because they think it’s the right thing to do.”
He said that response to the protests from passers-by had been mixed.
“Of course, we had somebody call us murderers, someone revved up their motorcycle engine to the point that the decibels hurt my ears,” he said, calling such reactions “expected.”
“But we’ve had a lot of positivity too. We’ve had a lot of people honking in support. We’ve had several people thank us for being out here.”
As the group of protesters grew to a dozen in less than an hour, a number of people driving by were observed honking, waving, and raising their fists out of their car windows in solidarity and support. These gestures were met with cheers from the people lining the sidewalk.
Others drove by with their middle fingers raised in insult, some revved their engines loudly, and one, stopped at a light, shouted at the protestors that they were indoctrinating children.
Regardless of the negativity, Compson-Lawson said, “I think it’s worth it” to continue the effort.
The protest was the second in a series of planned protests which will be held at a number of different locations throughout the area, according to Compson-Lawson. He later wrote in a Facebook post those protests would be held every Tuesday and Thursday from 4-8 p.m. and Saturdays from noon until 8 p.m. “for the foreseeable future.”
He said more information regarding future protests can be found on the Abortion and Reproductive Rights Protest page on Facebook and suggested those interested in other events join the MHC Protest group on Facebook, which he said he runs, and the Martinsville Protest Facebook group, run by Adin Linkous and Lydiah Hachbart. He said he will also be sharing protest information on his personal Facebook page, Benjamin Garland Compson-Lawson, and would be “open to anybody adding me that would be interested in joining.”
“We’re going to keep coming out here,” Compson-Lawson said. “We won’t be silenced.”