Western Mass. locals gather in downtown Northampton to protest the overturning of Roe v. Wade

‘We’re not commodities. We’re human beings.’

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Over 100 protesters gathered at Pulaski Park in Northampton. Photo by Caitlin Reardon.

By Caitlin Reardon, Assistant News Editor

Approximately 100 protesters gathered in Northampton’s Pulaski Park on Friday, June 24 to express disapproval of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The decision became official Friday after a draft had leaked that the Supreme Court sought to overturn the nearly five-decade Constitutional law. The vote was divided 5-4 with the majority of the Justices —Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — voting to repeal the legal right to abortion.

Without a moment of hesitation after the Court’s announcement, many Western Massachusetts locals took action and began demonstrating. A speaker at Friday’s event in Northampton, Jennifer Taub, took to Facebook: “ACTION: Angry about Scotus ending Roe? Join us tonight.”

The blazing sun did not stop locals from gathering to listen to the many speakers of the event. Organized by Debby Pastrich-Klemer, the standout accumulated a sizable crowd of citizens of all ages.

State Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa attended the demonstration and spoke to the crowd about her anger with the Court’s decision. Wiping tears from her eyes, Sabadosa delivered impassioned words of both sadness and encouragement.

“I spent a lot of the day trying to put myself in the position of the person who works at the clinic who has to call and tell people that their appointments are canceled,” Sabadosa said. “And I wish that every single person in this country did that, because it fills you with that sadness, that horrible, every-nerve-is-on-fire sadness, but it also fills you with rage.”

Sabadosa mentioned her daughter, citing how she “cannot go to sleep” knowing that her own child will have less rights than Sabadosa’s mother and grandmother. She promised that the Massachusetts State House will stay open this weekend in wake of the decision, but also encouraged any medical professionals to learn how to provide abortions.

“We need people to be able to go to their doctor to get the care that they need. Not a special place, not a different place…But your actual doctor,” she said.

The State Rep. suggested that in the short term, it is important that people know how to access abortions as well as helping people out-of-state with travel and healthcare options such as Plan C.

In the long term, however, she has a loftier goal: a revolution.

“We need a political revolution because I do not think we can continue to live in a democracy if we have minority rule, and that’s really what we have right now,” Sabadosa explained.

Pastrich-Klemer said that the reason she organized the standout is because “people just needed to get out and be together” in the midst of this event, as the decision “happened so fast.” In terms of fighting Roe’s overturn, the way to take action is to vote for pro-abortion leaders, she said.

Another speaker, Western New England law professor at the University of Law, Jennifer Taub, told the crowd, “I feel like I was punched in the gut today.”

Mass. citizens are “lucky to live here,” Taub said, referring to the executive order signed by Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday stating that abortions will remain legal and accessible in the State of Massachusetts. The order also declared that Mass. healthcare providers who help out-of-state individuals seeking abortion will be protected.

While Roe’s overturn does not affect the legality of abortion in Mass., it will very much cause detrimental changes to many women in red states, Taub explained to protesters. “Young people have their whole futures foreclosed by unwanted pregnancies,” she said.

Taub also suggested that the state organize legal clinics to defend and guide medical providers or any party involved in abortion cases.

Terisa Turner, an attendee of the protest who is also involved with the Extinction Rebellion climate justice group, had an abortion in her thirties while in London. She said her abortion experience in England was not only “very smooth,” but “completely free, full of dignity and gentleness and kindness.”

Turner stated how political leaders are seeking to strip women’s rights in an attempt to further an agenda based on profit. “They’re engaging in a fight for the control over fertility in its most fundamental sense,” she said. Yet in countries like Canada, she cited, abortion is fully legal.

“It’s a new expression of the underground railroad,” Turner said, referring to the measures people will take to access abortions.

Sitting with Turner were protest attendees Priscilla Lynch from Conway and Ellen Graves from West Springfield. The women were all in agreement; “we’re not commodities. We’re human beings,” Lynch said.

Graves expressed how shameful she believes it is that abortions now have to be reversed to underground care similarly to the fifties and sixties. “We are in control of our own bodies. We’re in control of our own lives and the government has no right to step inside that,” she said.

Before Sabadosa had finished speaking, she brought up local anti-war activist Francis Crowe, who died in August, 2019 at 100 years old. She remembered Crowe’s attitude as joyful, passionate and energized, and told protesters to hold onto that energy.

“Take your deep breath,” Sabadosa said, “and remember that there are lots of people on whose shoulders we are standing who have been doing this work for a long, long time that have been setting the table so that we will win and we will take care of each other.”

Caitlin Reardon can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @caitlinjreardon.