Pro-choice crowd gathers on town square

JACKSON, WY —  Around 30 women and a few men gathered on Town Square Tuesday afternoon holding signs about bodily autonomy and reproductive rights.

The group was one of hundreds like it across the nation that rallied yesterday in protest of a recent wave of laws that restrict and even ban abortions in some states. Last week, Alabama passed a law that will ban almost all abortions, with no exceptions for cases of rape or incest, and penalizes doctors who perform abortions with up t0 99 years of felony jail time (longer, many on the internet have pointed out, than the time often served by rapists who impregnate women against their will. The following day, Missouri legislators passed a bill that will criminalize abortions after eight weeks (pending the governor’s signature). Four states also recently passed “heartbeat” bills that ban abortions after six weeks, which is when embryos begin to show cardiac activity, but also before many women even know they’re pregnant.

“Abortion saves lives,” said Jackson resident Anna Meteyer, quoting a phrase she’s heard and seen a lot lately. It’s a common misconception, she said, that abortion takes lives away. That, she said, depends on your idea of when life officially begins. But the reality is that “unsafe abortions kill women.” Carrying a pregnancy to term can also be life-threatening.

Chiara Wallace added that abortion bans have the most profound impact on people who are already vulnerable.

“Wealthy women can get abortions whenever they want,” Wallace said. “Half of Alabama,” meanwhile, “is already on welfare.” Forcing an already poor person to carry a pregnancy to term is hardly “pro-life,” she said, especially if there is no legislation that also protects the child and the parent after the baby is born.

One tiny protester especially turned heads. His name is Peter Freeburg, and he lounged in his stroller while his mom, Raegan, carted him around. He is a year old.

“I’m a lot of work,” he said in a voice that sounded a lot like his mom’s (this is Peter talking, Raegan insisted). “And I’m only around forever. Moms should fiercely, fiercely want to have me.”

Chuck Herz and Charles Daval were among the men in attendance. Abortion, Herz said, isn’t just a women’s issue. “It’s for everybody.”

“This is about people trying to impose religious beliefs on people who don’t share those beliefs,” Herz said. That’s one of the most “unamerican” things he can think of.

Still, Herz said he showed up “because I support the right of women to control their own bodies.”

The group was largely met with support in the form of honks and cheers from passersby. One onlooker, however, rose to the challenge. “How would you feel if your mom chose to do that to you?” he asked the crowd as we walked through.

Caitlin Shea didn’t respond in real time, but said later she thinks that “would have been the appropriate choice for her.” She believes that abortion is an “integral part of reproductive healthcare.”

“We need to trust people to know what’s right for them,” she said. “This [parenthood] is a job you’ll have for the rest of your life.”

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