Thousands of people protest the reversal of Roe v. Wade in downtown Denver

Ellie Wyatt feels lucky to live in Colorado, where people have access to abortion. And that’s exactly what sent her and thousands of others to protest outside the State Capitol in support of people in other states, where the United States Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade has already begun ending access to legal abortion.

“Fear. Anger. Anguish,” Wyatt said Friday night, describing how she felt when she learned that the United States Supreme Court had overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, returning the question to the abortion access under state control “I was furious and knew I had to do something.”

Thousands of people marched through downtown Denver Friday night to protest the High Court’s decision to overturn Roe, which had protected abortion rights for nearly 50 years. As they marched, the rain fell on signs reading, “Take your prayer beads off my ovaries!” “Abandon the court!” “Rich women will always have access to abortion!” A few women carried pink balloons twisted into the shape of a womb.

But many protesters said they weren’t there just for themselves. They said they were standing up for women in states that are about 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 Governor Jared Polis. But he could be overthrown by a simple majority in the General Assembly and the signature of a governor. Abortion rights groups plan to pursue a state constitutional amendment on abortion access in 2024 that could not be unilaterally reversed by elected officials.

Bans in other states triggered by Friday’s decision could mean an influx of patients crossing state lines to get abortions. Nine States have already abortions prohibited, and 12 are expected to pass restrictive laws or outright ban soon. As the closest place to states with bans or restrictive laws, like Texas and Oklahoma, Colorado could become a “island” of access to abortion. The most marginalized groups, such as low-income women, will bear the brunt of these bans, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said in a written statement earlier today.

Demonstrators march near the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver to protest the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, the case that has protected abortion rights for nearly 50 years. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

“With people in other states, there’s a huge reality that they won’t be able to get the care that they need,” said Wyatt, who moved to Colorado a few years ago. “So there’s also compassion for other people who don’t have the luxury of living in a state where they have abortion rights or health care.”

Others worry about the most needy people in other states who no longer have access to abortion. Valerie Stanson said she was pro-life. She grew up hearing her grandmother talk about a woman who died from a clandestine abortion and thought the procedure was the cause of death.

But later in life, she realized that was exactly why she needed to support legal abortions.

“I think of all my friends who are pregnant, who may have ectopic pregnancies,” Stanson said. “I’m thinking of people who don’t have access to it, and I’m mostly here because I’m concerned about the health of people who can get pregnant who we need to protect.”

Although Lavinda Franklin felt that “it’s safe here [in Colorado]“, she still felt rage and sadness over 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 poor, it’s going to take away choices.”

Still, the march left protesters with hope for possible change.

Luisa Steinback said she woke up with no hope. She began protesting at 10 a.m., heading to the Capitol from Morrison.

“Seeing all of my peers and all of these young people here ready to make a change is really important to me and makes me feel so much better about our future,” Steinback said.

Towards 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 shouted as pride flags and pro-choice signs waved in the distance.

Protesters march through Capitol Hill in Denver on June 24 after Roe v. Wade Friday. Nine states have banned abortions and 12 are expected to adopt restrictive or outright bans soon. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)


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David H. Henry