Hundreds march in Fargo to protest potential abortion ban
Saturday's rally outside Fargo City Hall was part of both state and national 'Bans Off Our Bodies' demonstrations.
FARGO — She stood there, garbed in a black Victorian dress and carrying a black parasol along with a sign that simply read, "No, thank you."
Surrounded by casually dressed, sandals-wearing abortion-rights demonstrators at Saturday's "Bans Off Our Bodies" rally in Fargo, Hillary Ray of Moorhead looked like she'd been teleported from the 19th century.
That was the idea for Ray, who referred to her costume as "Death Granny."
"Death Granny manifests when people are about to make real stupid decisions when they've already seen the outcome in previous decades," says Ray, who volunteers along with her daughter Margaret, at the Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo. "In the 1890s, abortion was completely verboten — you didn't even talk about contraception through the US mail. No, that was a bad idea. Dumb. We tried it once. We don't need to try it again. You can already see the results, and they were bad."
Ray was just one of several hundred abortion rights demonstrators who gathered outside Fargo City Hall Saturday evening to show their opposition to an abortion ban that could quickly spread to 26 states, including North Dakota, if the United States Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, as an earlier leaked document suggests could happen.
The North Dakota Legislature passed a "trigger" law in 2007 that would ban abortion within 30 days if the Supreme Court changed direction on the controversial procedure.
People of all ages, some with young children, showed up to listen to speeches against the ban. They brandished shirts, hats and signs that read, "I had a child and an abortion. I regret neither," "Not Your Handmaid," "Abortion is Healthcare," and "Safe Abortion Saves Lives." Later, they marched down Broadway and congregated at Broadway Square, chanting, "My body, my choice!" and "Bans off our bodies!"
Terri Sonsthagen Burns of Moorhead carried a sign that read, "He who is without ovaries shall not make laws for those who do. Fallopians 5:12."
"I believe in women's right to choose pregnancy," Burns said when asked why she attended the rally. "I think children should be wanted and able to be cared for. I believe ultimately it's every person's right to do what they want with their own body."
Burns said she also feared that reduced access to abortion might encourage some people to try to terminate pregnancies through unsafe means.
"My grandmother lost her sister to a back-alley abortion," she says. "People will die. Ultimately, families suffer, society suffers, people will be pulled out of the workforce, primarily female — because, let's face it, they're the ones who feel the effects the most."
Speakers at the rally stressed that people needed to get uncomfortable and stand up for preserving an important right.
"Regardless of legality, people will still need and want abortion care," said Destini Spaeth, president of the North Dakota WIN Abortion Access Fund, which helped organize the event. "Making laws about our bodies is sexist, racist and classist and we won't stop fighting for abortion rights until it is accessible for everyone."
Another speaker, Ritchell Aboah, a local activist of color, urged white women to be the "swing votes" that could protect reproductive rights for everyone else. "Are you going to vote for your race or are you going to vote for your humanity? Which one?" Aboah said, triggering a round of cheers.
Several people in the crowd held a large sign that read, "Don't like abortion? Just ignore it like the foster kids."
The sign was created by Alicia Litzau of Detroit Lakes, Minn., who attended alongside another co-worker, Saria Love. The women said they work with many kids who are in the foster care system, and wish the same compassion and sense of morality was given to those kids.
The event did attract several anti-abortion demonstrators, including Shanley High School seniors Olivia Mathison and Jeremiah Moore.
Mathison, holding a large Vatican flag, explained that her presence was to show that a Christian, anti-abortion stance could be expressed in a respectful, civilized way.
"A lot of times the other side will demonize the pro-life movement and put Christians in a bad light. If you go and voice your opinion, but be sure to be peaceful and kind to people, then have positive interactions that reflect well on the movement, that shows we aren't hateful and we're not trying to use intimidation."
Saturday's rally was just one of hundreds held across the United States, including three others in North Dakota.
Rally supporters included ACLU North Dakota, ERA Now, North Dakota WIN Fund, North Dakota Women's Network, Planned Parenthood North Central States, Prairie Action ND and the Red River Women's Clinic, North Dakota's only abortion provider.