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Banning the bans: Anti-abortion bills protested at local rally

By Staff | May 31, 2019

Local residents protest anti-abortion legislation, during the STOP the BANS — Reproductive Rights Can’t Wait rally at McMurran Hall on May 21. At right, Jessie Ward speaks. Ward represented Stephen Smith’s reproductive rights constituency. Courtesy photo

SHEPHERDSTOWN – As eight states have passed anti-abortion laws this year, abortion rights activists have become concerned that other states will pass similar legislation.

For local abortion rights activists, their concern took them to German Street on May 21, where they gathered in front of McMurran Hall to protest the anti-abortion legislation with speeches and posters. The rally, STOP the BANS – Reproductive Rights Can’t Wait, was organized by representatives for Stephen Smith’s West Virginia Can’t Wait gubernatorial campaign.

“I have been at abortion rights and reproductive rights rallies since I was 17, which was when Roe versus Wade was passed. This has always been a concern for me,” said Pat Hamilton, of Sharpsburg, Maryland, as she waited for the first speaker to begin. “I can’t believe this is happening. I didn’t think Roe versus Wade would ever be challenged again.

“In the last 20 years, we’ve sort of left it to young women, and I feel sort of responsible that this has happened. But we’re still fighting,” Hamilton said. “Forty years later, we’re doing this again.”

As Stephen Smith’s Reproductive Rights Constituency Captain Jessie Ward started to speak, the 50 protesters quieted down and gathered around where she was speaking on the steps of McMurran Hall’s lawn.

Jessie Ward, representing Stephen Smith’s reproductive rights constituency, speaks during the STOP the BANS — Reproductive Rights Can’t Wait rally at McMurran Hall on May 21. Courtesy photo

“We need to show other parts of the world that reproductive rights must be protected, and we will fight back. What happened in Alabama last week was a wake-up call,” Ward said, referring to legislation which would only allow an abortion in the event of the pregnancy causing a serious health risk “to the unborn child’s mother.”

An anti-abortion bill in Georgia has also sparked similar complaints from abortion proponents, due to its banning abortions once doctors can detect “a fetal heartbeat in the womb.” This bill would ban all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, which is when most women realize they are pregnant. However, none of the eight bills are currently in effect, as some have been tabled and others won’t be enforceable until next year.

As Rachael Meads, of Shepherdstown, spoke to the rally’s attendees, she discussed the unique viewpoint of mothers in the abortion discussion.

“I am a mother, like many of you all are today,” Meads said. “Mothers have a deep insight into this situation – what it’s like to carry a child and be a life giver and life supporter.

“I’m very proud to be a mom, but I’m even prouder that it was my choice to be a mom. It’s not an easy choice or decision,” Meads said. “I have two amazing daughters who are fabulous young women, and I want them to grow up in a world that respects their intelligence and ability to make their own decisions. I think we’re failing to respect women, respect their ability to make the right decisions.”

According to Shepherd University senior political science major Tessa Chafin, she chose to speak up at the rally because she doesn’t want West Virginia to be viewed as an anti-abortion state.

“West Virginia is not an anti-abortion state,” Chafin said. “West Virginians won’t go down quietly – we will fight harder, and that’s why I’m proud of being a West Virginian.”