Ellie Wyatt feels lucky that she lives in Colorado, where people have access to abortion. And that’s exactly what sent her and thousands of others to protest at the state Capitol in support of people in other states, where the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade has already begun to end access to legal abortion.
“Fear. Anger. Anguish,” Wyatt said Friday night, when describing how she felt when she heard the news that the U.S. Supreme Court had struck the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, returning the issue of abortion access to the control of the states. “I was incensed, and I knew that I had to do something.”
Thousands marched through downtown Denver Friday night to protest the high court’s decision to overturn Roe, which protected abortion rights for nearly 50 years. As they marched, rain fell on signs reading: “Get your rosaries off my ovaries!” “Abort the court!” “Rich women will always have access to abortion!” A few women carried pink balloons twisted into the shape of uteruses.
But many protesters said they weren’t there only for themselves. They said they were rallying for women in states that are set to ban or have already banned abortion.
Access to abortion and birth control is protected in Colorado by the Reproductive Health Equity Act, passed this year by Democratic lawmakers and signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis. But it could be overturned by a simple majority in the General Assembly and a governor’s signature. Abortion-rights groups are planning to pursue a state constitutional amendment on abortion access in 2024 that could not be unilaterally overturned by elected officials.
Bans in other states triggered by the ruling Friday could mean an influx of patients crossing state lines to get an abortion. Nine states have already banned abortions, and 12 are likely to soon pass restrictive laws or total prohibition. As the closest place to states with bans or restrictive laws, such as Texas and Oklahoma, Colorado could become an “island” of abortion access. The most marginalized groups, such as low-income women, will experience the brunt of these bans, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said in a written statement earlier in the day.
“With people in other states, there’s a huge reality that they’re not going to be able to get the care that they need,” Wyatt, who moved to Colorado a few years ago, said. “So there’s also compassion going out to other people who don’t have the luxury of living in a state where they have abortion rights or health care.”
Others worry about those most in need in other states who no longer have access to abortion. Valerie Stanson said she used to be pro-life. She grew up hearing her grandmother talk about a woman who died from a back-alley abortion and thought the procedure had been the cause of the death.
But later in life, she realized that’s exactly why she needed to support legal abortions.
“I think about all my friends who are pregnant, who can have ectopic pregnancies,” Stanson said. “I think about people who don’t have access, and I’m mostly just here because I’m concerned about the health of people who can get pregnant that we need to protect.”
Even though Lavinda Franklin felt that “it’s safe here [in Colorado],” she still felt rage and sadness at the implications for people in other states, especially poor women and women of color.
“They’re going to be disproportionately affected by this, and it’s disgusting,” Franklin said. “It’s going to keep them in poverty, it’s going to take away choices.”
Still, the march left protesters with hope for the possibility of change.
Luisa Steinback said she woke up feeling hopeless. She started protesting at 10 a.m., heading over to the Capitol from Morrison.
“Seeing all my peers and all these young people here willing to make a change is really important for me and makes me feel a lot better about our future,” Steinback said.
Toward the end of the protest, the rain began to clear and protesters cheered at the sight of a rainbow. “Mother nature is on our side,” one person yelled as pride flags and pro-choice signs waved on in the distance.