Law & Justice

Bellingham responds to the reversal of Roe

'What can happen in Texas can happen in Washington, if we’re not vigilant'
June 24, 2022 at 8:29 p.m.
Hundreds gathered outside Bellingham City Hall for a Bans Off Our Bodies rally following the U.S. Supreme Court's overturn of Roe v. Wade on June 24. Mt. Baker Planned Parenthood and Indivisible Bellingham organized the Friday evening rally, which drew people of all ages to the steps of City Hall.
Hundreds gathered outside Bellingham City Hall for a Bans Off Our Bodies rally following the U.S. Supreme Court's overturn of Roe v. Wade on June 24. Mt. Baker Planned Parenthood and Indivisible Bellingham organized the Friday evening rally, which drew people of all ages to the steps of City Hall. (Audra Anderson/Cascadia Daily News)

By JULIA LERNER
Staff Reporter

Hundreds of Bellingham residents gathered at the steps of City Hall to rally for abortion and gender-affirming healthcare Friday afternoon. 

The rally, organized by Mt. Baker Planned Parenthood and Indivisible Bellingham, followed Friday's U.S. Supreme Court announcement rescinding Roe v. Wade. The landmark 1973 case protected a woman’s right to abortion. The final decision was released Friday morning, almost two months after a draft of the decision leaked May 2. 

Several speakers addressed the crowd throughout the rally, including representatives from Planned Parenthood and local business owners. 

“Waking up without Roe v. Wade in place this morning feels really threatening and vulnerable,” said Jenn Mason, founder of WinkWink. “I know that this is something that impacts everybody, and that the access to abortion is just the beginning. I think that conservative lawmakers will continue to strip us of our bodily autonomy and our personal freedoms.” 

photo  Apinya Abrahamsen donned a uterus hat that read "Hands off" at the June 24 rally. (Audra Anderson/Cascadia Daily News)  


Mason, who told the crowd about her own abortion, called on attendees to take care of themselves and each other in the wake of the “horrific” decision. 

“This is an emotional moment for people,” she said. “We need to provide support for people who have had abortions and encouragement for people who are working for organizations like Planned Parenthood to continue the work they do.”

In Washington, abortion access was codified in 1991, but Planned Parenthood representatives are concerned it may not always be a protected right. 

Mt. Baker Planned Parenthood is currently the only abortion provider in Whatcom County, and one of the only abortion providers across the region. CEO Linda McCarthy worries that, while the right to an abortion is protected in Washington today, that may not always be the case. 

“While we’re safe today, who knows if we’ll be safe in December?” she asked. “What can happen in Texas can happen in Washington, if we’re not vigilant.” 

photo  Barry Ulman poses with his sign at the June 24 rally. "I'm outraged at the Supreme Court's decision to take away the most sensible rule that's lasted for 50 years," he said. (Audra Anderson/Cascadia Daily News)  


The 5-4 decision, authored by Justice Samuel Alito, is the result of challenges to abortion access in several states, including a 15-week abortion ban in Missouri and a near-total ban in Texas

In addition to overturning Roe, the court’s decision also introduces challenges to other landmark civil rights cases, including the Griswold, Lawrence and Obergefell decisions. Griswold, decided in 1965, protects a person’s right to birth control and contraceptives. Lawrence, decided in 2003, legalized homosexuality, and Obergefell, decided in 2015, legalized same-sex marriage. 

“Thomas said he’s coming for birth control, coming for gay rights, coming for gay marriage,” McCarthy said. “This is the first time in America, at least in my life in America, where young kids today have less rights than their mothers did.” 

McCarthy said it’s “hard to understand” total abortion bans, particularly after her clinic treated an 11-year-old incest victim, who may not have been able to access abortion elsewhere in the country. 

“Closing our eyes to suffering does not make it go away,” Lee Che Leong, the treasurer of Mt. Baker Planned Parenthood, told the crowd. “Mt. Baker Planned Parenthood is committed to providing the full range of services for everyone who comes to our door. We grieve today, but we fight tomorrow.” 

photo  Many of the signs at the June 24 rally depicted coat hangers, a reference to an abortion practice prior to its accessibility. (Audra Anderson/Cascadia Daily News)  


Benny Spencer, a 25-year-old trans man in Bellingham, said access to abortion and gender-affirming health care saved his life. 

“If I didn’t have access to reproductive health care, including birth control, if I didn’t have access to abortion when I needed one, if I didn’t have access to hormone replacement therapy and gender-affirming surgeries, that would be a death sentence for me,” he said. “Even though we are protected here in Washington now, that might not always be the case, because the anti-choice movement is powerful, and you never know what the Supreme Court can decide.”

In May, progressive members of Whatcom County Council adopted a resolution “supporting every person’s right to inclusive reproductive health care,” and now, Bellingham’s mayor hopes to do the same. 

Mayor Seth Fleetwood, who attended the rally in support of reproductive rights, said he hopes to have language drafted signaling support for reproductive rights. 

“I look forward to talking to council members about that,” he told Cascadia Daily News. “I think it would be appropriate.” 

Fleetwood said he was young when Roe v. Wade was first decided, but had family members who grew up without it. 

“My father’s younger sister, in 1962 … had to go to Tijuana [Mexico] and have one of those horrendous experiences that you hear about,” he said. “After evolving to a more enlightened place over the last 50 years, the idea that we would go back to those horrific days for millions of Americans is just horrific.” 

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the Supreme Court decision was a 6-3 decision. Justices voted 5-4 in favor of repealing Roe.  Additionally, the opinion of the court was authored by Justice Samuel Alito. Justice Clarence Thomas authored a separate, concurrent opinion. The Cascadia Daily News regrets the error. This story was updated to reflect this change at 1:50 p.m. on June 26. 2022. The Cascadia Daily News regrets the error.

photo  The crowd listens to high school student Neva Perez speak at the June 24 Ban Off Our Bodies rally. "My generation now has less bodily autonomy than the one before us," Perez said. (Audra Anderson/Cascadia Daily News)  

 

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