A pro-choice march and rally, organized on Instagram by a 17-year-old girl, drew a stream of hundreds of Tulsans to downtown Tulsa on Thursday to demand change and access to reproductive health care after the fall of Roe c. Wade.
The crowd was the largest in recent pro-choice protests in Tulsa that began after the Supreme Court’s draft opinion leaked in April signaling the end of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
More than 400 people first gathered outside the BOK Center and then the crowd, led by the 17-year-old organizer – who wished not to be named for her safety – marched through the city center chanting “keep your hands away from our bodies,” “separate church and state,” and “my body, my choice” before rallying at the Tulsa County Courthouse.
“At first I was worried as a woman, but once I started to think about it more, I realized how much it affects every person, especially people of color,” said the organizer, describing what inspired her to plan the walk. “I’ve been organizing protests for a while, but I’m used to seeing 20-30 people there. It’s breathtaking.
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Protesters swarmed the courthouse square, carrying signs and chanting, after marching through downtown streets.
A sign carried by a teenage girl read: ‘I’m walking because someone walked a long time ago for me’, while signs carried by men in the crowd read: ‘Her body, her choice’.
Donning her clinic escort vest, Ruby Taylor, an escort at the Tulsa Women’s Clinic before Oklahoma banned abortions, said she was inspired to see the number of Tulsans who came out to claim the reproductive rights.
“To see those numbers is exceptional,” Taylor said. “It gives me hope that we can actually do something about this decision. It’s really nice to see Tulsa showing up for women and people who can give birth.
When Gov. Kevin Stitt signed the near-total abortion ban in May, he said “the majority of Oklahomans believe” that life begins at conception. Taylor said that while many people in Oklahoma don’t want women to have bodily autonomy, she and the many people at the march are also here and not backing down.
“This,” she said, waving at the crowd of protesters cheering on honking cars – “people coming out of the woodwork, pointing and showing these kind of people that we will fight for these human rights. man.”
Pregnant women like the women who filled the once crowded Tulsa Women’s Clinic waiting room are still there, Taylor said, adding that it’s horrific to think about what they’re going through right now.
“When the Texas (abortion ban) law was first put in place, we had an influx of people from Texas,” Taylor said. “The waiting room was so full – we had people sitting on the floor. From May, however, the waiting rooms were completely empty.
“It’s really difficult because we know these women are there. They still need services, but they can’t get them. It’s heartbreaking.
Throughout the march and rally, a small group of counter-protesters holding Bibles and signs reading “murderer” followed the crowd, but their “God will judge you” speeches were repeatedly interrupted by protesters to the right to abortion who shouted at them.
At one point during the rally, abortion rights protesters chanted, “We are the majority,” and anti-abortion protesters shouted, “The majority are going to hell.
Another anti-abortion protester appeared overwhelmed by the crowd who shouted at him, “Rape and incest are not God’s will,” and the man left.
When Roe v. Wade was overturned, racial justice organizations have sounded the alarm that the decision will disproportionately affect people of color by restricting access to abortion and potentially suing them over their pregnancy outcomes, the The Washington Post reported.
Shadow Hardbarger, a Cherokee and Crow woman, is most afraid of these possibilities.
Wearing a traditional ribbon skirt and holding a sign that read “my choice” in Cherokee, Hardbarger said it was important to keep the voices of women of color in conversations about reproductive rights.
“It’s a scary time, and it’s an angry time,” she said. “Since I know the history of my people, the government has always tried to control us. This is another way they try to control us, because they know there will always be state governors who will not allow (access to abortion).
Native American communities have always been matriarchal, Hardbarger said, so the voices of Native women hold the power.
With the way the world is looking at it right now, Hardbarger said, it’s heartening to see people of all races, genders and ages coming together in Tulsa to stand up for their rights.
“Hearing all these voices when they’re screaming here, it gives me goosebumps,” she said. “I’ve never been loud, but seeing all these people gives me motivation and hope for a better future.”
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