“My choice is what matters most, my body, I choose,” 9-year-old Lilly Pake said, reading off of her sign in front of the dozens gathered at MSU’s rock for the Women’s Rights Rally organized by the CORES and COPS groups.
Pake shared a podium with students, faculty, Planned Parenthood and State Reps. Sarah Anthony and Julie Brixie. The Women’s Rights Rally is one of several abortion rights rallies that has been held in the Lansing area since Roe v. Wade was overturned at the end of June.
This was the first rally on MSU’s campus and the only rule for the swelteringly hot afternoon? “Don’t pass out!”
Mathematics senior Jenna Lotocki had her own personal experience with abortion.
“I found out I was pregnant two weeks before the Roe v. Wade decision was overturned, and I got my abortion one week before the decision was overturned,” Lotocki said. “I spent my time recovering without the right to an abortion.”
During the rally, a participant asked everyone who had had an abortion to raise their hand, to counter the stigma. Lotocki’s hand shot up, unafraid.
“I think about all the time, how if I would’ve waited one extra week, I probably wouldn’t have been able to get an abortion in the state of Michigan,” Lotocki said. “And my heart hurts for all the people in other states who really do not have access to abortion like I do—it really puts things into perspective.”
Co-Director for MSU’s Center for Gender in Global Context Stephanie J. Nawyn grew up always having access to legal abortion.
“It was there,” Nawyn said. “It was there when I had an unwanted pregnancy myself and was able to choose to have an abortion.”
Nawyn said that she did not have an abortion because she was raped, because she was unmarried, or because the pregnancy was risking her life.
“We need reproductive rights for people who are in those situations,” Nawyn said. “But we also need reproductive rights for everyone who simply wants to be able to make a choice over their body, and over the future direction of their life.”
Today, Nawyn has two children, a 14- and 17-year-old, who she said she wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for her ability to get an abortion when she needed one.
Kinesiology senior Shanel Baxter highlighted the disproportionate impact of the overturning of Roe v. Wade on Black and Brown women, the queer community and the disabled community.
“No law, no person, and no amount of privilege should be able to dictate an individual’s personal autonomy and health decisions,” she said.
Nawyn reminded participants that abortion rights are part of a larger fight.
“Do not think that it was a coincidence that the Roe overturning came down on the heels of a slew of legislation trying to erase the existence of transgender people,” Nawyn said. “that the same Supreme Court has passed down decisions that are trying to make it harder for Black, Brown and poor people to vote.”
“Do you know who is truly being impacted by (the overturning of Roe v. Wade)?” Black Student Alliance’s Vice President Drew Bender said. “It is the people who have already experienced discriminatory obstacles when accessing their healthcare.”
Bender mentioned people of different skin colors, the LGBTQ+ community, and the 25% of women who have had abortions.
“Since we’re all out here today supporting this women’s march, we need to do the same for women who have intersectional identities,” organizer Aleaha Renee said. “When there’s a Black Lives Matter rally, we need to see y’all. When there’s a rally about immigration rights, we need to see y’all. When there’s a Stop Asian Hate rally, we need to see y’all there, and when there’s a rally about LGBTQ rights, we need to see y’all there, because there are women who identify in every single one of those categories.”
Many students around the country have expressed frustration with being told to vote as a solution to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
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“The fact of the matter is, you have done your job,” Anthony said. “Every single election cycle, young people, you are stepping up. In the last election, we voted in record numbers, and we still have a Supreme Court that has not reflected our values. The fact that there is a small minority of people that are making decisions that year after year, poll after poll shows where the right side of history is. ... Yes, go out and vote every election is important, but that's the bare minimum. What we need to do is stay engaged.”
Brixie encouraged voters to reconsider where their vote has more power.
“Consider registering to vote here to participate here, in Ingham County elections because we have a lot on the line,” she said. “Think about where you live, and what matters. Maybe your vote is really important at home. But it might be more important here.”
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