Flagler Beach, FL – Quina Brown remembers when Roe vs. Wade was handed down. At that moment, she thought it was settled. As part of a group of women who marched on Washington D.C. in support of a woman’s right to choose, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on January 22, 1973 was the final say.
Or so she thought.
On Saturday, she found it nearly unbelievable to be marching nearly 50 years later to defend that right. She even had the sign from the original march on Washington, D.C. in her car.
“I went to the big rally years ago in D.C., many years ago, and I thought it was over then, and we’re still fighting. It’s a disgrace,” said Brown. “If men had to have babies and go through what women do, we would have no problem. But the thing is, everybody has the right to choose what they want to do with their bodies. That’s all I have to say.”
Brown was among a hundred or so women and a handful of men, who attended the Women’s March on Saturday in Flagler Beach, and among thousands marching across the nation. Many of those in attendance were of age to remember the landmark decision and the events leading up to it.
Janet Sullivan heads up the Flagler County Democratic Party.
While standing shoulder to shoulder with other women in support of a woman’s right to choose on Saturday, she referenced her college experience as an example of what will happen if women do not have access to safe, clean services.
“I’m 68, so I’m old enough to remember when abortions occurred prior to the passing of Roe v. Wade. I was a sophomore in college and two of my dorm friends had back alley abortions. We had to all band together, and it took all of us to keep those two people alive and get them to doctors and keep them from bleeding to death. So I do believe abortions will continue to happen but they’re going to be happening like they did prior to 1973, in the back alley, and lives will be lost,” said Sullivan.
“What Roe v. Wade did is bring safety to the procedure,” she said.
Crossing Party Lines
Greeting supporters, Sally Hirst, president of the Flagler Beach Democratic Club, said it comes down to awareness.
“This is of particular importance right now because of the surprise law in Texas and the way it’s spreading. But we’ve always been in favor of women’s right to choose. Now, it just seems time with the national march having that theme, we’re there to support it,” said Hirst.
Not caught up in the details, for Hirst it’s about the principle of it, something she says crosses party lines.
“We are in favor of choice and we don’t want to get into where the line is drawn. We think it’s not six weeks. And we think it’s not introspective of incest or rape or whatever. We are just generally in favor of a woman’s right to choose for herself and not politicians,” she said.
“The percent of people who don’t want Roe overturned is high, even in Republicans. It’s fifty-something percent of Republicans. I’m guessing, most of the women and some of the men, but I mean, nationwide, people are not in favor of that, so I think if we just point it out to people hopefully they’ll just vote for candidates who support that position.”
The Flip Side. Is There Common Ground?
Keeping it simple, a divided nation breaks it down into two camps.
A person is either on one side of the argument – for abortions and a woman’s right to choose, or on the other side – declaring all abortion murder that should be stopped.
It seems cut and dry. But talking with people at the march, it isn’t.
At least one counter protester, a Vietnam combat veteran, talked about a gray area in the argument that may shed light on common ground between the two main viewpoints.
Sharing only a middle name, “Connie” said he could support women having abortions early on in their pregnancy – no later than 8 to 10 weeks.
“I don’t believe there’s a war on women. What the Republicans feel that a certain timeline, abortions should not be allowed. Like late-term abortion and now they’re talking about babies being delivered and you can take their lives too. I’m totally against that,” he said.
“If a woman wants to get an abortion, she should be able to realize during those two months. Any more than that is ridiculous. I think at that point if a woman doesn’t want it, take care of it, but not so far ahead after two months, and then it’s more like a human being. You see photos in the womb of babies three months old, four, you’ve got to be heartless to abort it.”
Defend It Or Lose It?
Talking with Carolyn, a pro-choice demonstrator who worked in an abortion clinic as an anesthesiologist in the northeast, she too remembers the pre-Roe vs. Wade days.
“I’m here today because I’m old enough to remember when women bled to death or died of massive infections from illegal abortions,” she said.
“We need to support a woman’s right to choose. It’s not what you want, it’s not what I want. it’s the individual woman. Until you’ve walked a mile in that person’s shoes, you have no right to ridicule them or make a judgement against them.”
Carolyn too sees it as a bigger picture issue.
“We just have to look at Afghanistan or other countries that suspend all rights of women. If we lose this right, then we could lose our right to vote which women fought for. We could lose our right to dress the way we want and end up behind veils just like the Muslim women do. You have to support your freedom. You have to stand for everything that you’re entitled to. We have women in the military, we have women that have gone into space. Why? Because they’ve stood their ground. This is another place where we need to stand our ground.”
Valerie, dressed to represent The Handmaid’s Tale, shared her support for a woman’s right to choose one way or the other.
“I want to be here to support women’s rights to legal, safe abortions,” she said. “It is hard to believe that my grandmother marched for her daughter and I am marching for my daughter. It’s not been codified into law therefore the fighting persists and that’s unfortunate,” she said.
“(The outfit represents) What could happen in a dystopian environment when rights of women are taken away. This is the path that we could go down if we don’t stand today and do something.”