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'Furious:' Hundreds of abortion rights activists speak out at weekend protests

Hundreds of pro-choice activists gathered over the weekend in Falmouth, Hyannis, New Bedford, Vineyard Haven, and beyond to protest the loss of constitutional protections for abortion rights.

As they blasted the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, many carried signs that read: “Forced birth is violence,” “Regulate guns, not my uterus” and “This sign is too small for my rage.” In Falmouth, one woman carried a sign that read: “my abortion saved my life.”

They characterized the way they were feeling with adjectives like: “disgusted,” “overwhelmed,” “despondent,” “angry,” and “furious.”

In Hyannis, demonstrators who gathered at the Airport Rotary were eager to share their abortion stories. One woman said she’d helped loved ones through the decision to abort because they were already struggling to take care of the children they had.

Another woman broke into sobs explaining that her mother had to get an abortion after having three prior children because of life-threatening health problems.

“My mum wouldn’t be here today without these rights,” she said. The woman asked to only be identified by her first name, Madison. “She made the really difficult decision that she’d rather be here with the kids she had. [She] decided to give up the child that would sadly, ultimately kill her.”

In Massachusetts, the right to an abortion is still protected under state law. Abortions are legal up to – and in some cases beyond 24 weeks – under the ROE Act, which was passed in December 2020.

But that wasn’t a consolation to many in attendance.

“An injury against one is an injury against all,” said Barnstable resident Lisa Davis. “I consider myself very fortunate to live here in this state…. But what about my sisters who live in Texas? What about my sisters who live in Missouri? They deserve to have those rights no matter where they live.” 

Thirteen states have trigger laws that will ban abortions now that Roe is overturned in all, or nearly all cases. About a dozen more states expected to follow suit. On Friday, Governor Charlie Baker issued an executive order protecting Massachusetts abortion providers who may treat residents from states that ban abortion.

But that won’t work for everyone, said West Yarmouth’s Kelly O’Brien, who demonstrated in Hyannis.

“There are people who are not going to … have the funds to travel, who can’t take time off of work to travel. So they’re being forced to have children that they don’t want to have,” she said.  

“When it comes down to it, all politics aside,” O’Brien concluded, “it’s my body. It should be my choice. There’s no way anyone else should be able to tell me what to do with my body.” 

Pro-choice demonstrator Paula Bettencourt agreed.

“For whatever reason, we should have the right to determine what to do with our bodies, whether it’s abortion, or birth control, or really anything,” she said.   

Women made up the vast majority at the events; 300 people were reportedly in Falmouth, 50 gathered in Vineyard Haven, and about 100 met in Hyannis. Some of the few men in attendance said they were bothered by the lack of gender representation.

“It’s definitely disappointing to see not as many men are here as I’d think would be here,” said Samuel Bechtold. “Everyone’s got to talk to their neighbors and their friends. If they’re not here, then we’ve got to educate them, unfortunately, as to why they should be out here.” 

In Hyannis, one counter-protester briefly interrupted the event, but no police presence was required.

Eve Zuckoff covers the environment and human impacts of climate change for CAI.