Updated at 7:55 p.m.
Hours after the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated the federal right to abortion Friday, close to 1,000 Vermonters gathered around the state to protest the end of Roe v. Wade.
Throughout the afternoon and evening, they rallied in Bennington, Brattleboro, Burlington, Montpelier and Rutland — denouncing the decision and calling for Vermont to further protect abortion rights.
In Burlington, a crowd of around 100 people marched up Church Street from City Hall to the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House, chanting, “My body, my choice!” and, “What do we want? Abortion justice! When do we want it? Now!”
Within an hour, the crowd had swelled to roughly 300. Attendees passed around a megaphone, using it to share their experiences with pregnancy and abortion — and urging voters to support Proposal 5, which would enshrine abortion rights in the state Constitution.
Several speakers at the Burlington rally said they were concerned by Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion that the Supreme Court “should reconsider” its past rulings codifying rights to same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage.
Among them was Carly Rembish, an early childhood educator from Burlington who identifies as queer. “We need to step up,” she said. “And as angry as I am, I still have faith that we can change this.”
Earlier Friday afternoon, local and state leaders decried the Supreme Court’s decision from the steps of City Hall.
“We are tired and we are frustrated and we are angry, but this is our moment in Vermont to show the rest of the country how we can lead and protect rights,” said House Speaker Jill Krowinski, D-Burlington.
Rep. Ann Pugh, D-South Burlington, who chairs the House Human Services Committee, urged audience members to turn their disappointment into action.
“We need you to sing and keep singing and singing louder,” she said. “Prop 5 represents the values and beliefs that we Vermonters have had related to reproductive rights for 50 years.”
Burlington City Councilor Zoraya Hightower, P-Ward 1, shared her story of obtaining an abortion when she was 25. “No one wants to get an abortion,” she said. “But those of us with uteruses make that decision when we have to do what is best for us.”
“I woke up angry and heartbroken, as many of us did,” Hightower said. “And I’m trying to move toward determination and hope.”
Valerie Keller, a stay-at-home parent, attended the Burlington protest with her child.
“We need to make sure that we fight super hard so that she doesn’t have to and others don’t have to in her generation,” Keller said.
Elizabeth Deutsch, a registered nurse who lives in Hinesburg, said at the Burlington rally that she had seen firsthand how challenging, and potentially dangerous, it can be for people to give birth. For that reason, she said, only a person and their health care provider should determine whether to move forward with a pregnancy.
“Every time a woman chooses to have a baby, they make a choice that will put them behind the eight ball financially,” Deutsch said. “And that should be a choice they should enter into.”
Rose Martellaro of Burlington, who is a transgender man, said he was “devastated” when he learned about the high court’s decision Friday.
“Women's reproductive health care matters and is relevant to me as well,” he said, marching with the crowd up Church Street. “The first thing that came to my mind was, I'm not an incubator.”
About 275 people gathered Friday evening along Main Street Park in Rutland in support of abortion rights, many holding signs to express views, including "Vote Pro-Choice in Every Election Everywhere," “Abortion is Health Care," and "Abortion is a Human Right."
"Our democracy is at risk," said Nora Rubinstein, 71, as she stood alongside many others waving signs at passing motorists.
"It's a violation of the American jurisprudence and women's rights to make decisions about their own bodies," the Middletown Springs writer said of the high court's ruling.
Patty McWilliams, 69, said she recalled marching for abortion rights decades ago.
"We shouldn't have to be doing this all over again," the Poultney bookseller said.
She added of the justices who voted to overturn Roe V. Wade, "As far as I am concerned, they don't care about babies. They just care about their power."
More than 100 people convened in front of the federal courthouse in Montpelier on Friday evening, cheering at fellow protestors' speeches and waving signs at those driving down State Street. Protesters began by chanting, "We dissent!" while the crowd erupted with applause.
Organizers with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England set up a speaker system and passed around a microphone to allow audience members to speak. Though most who took part were young, one woman who took the microphone said she would be 93 in October.
"This has nothing to do with abortion. Nothing. This has to do with rights. Rights for human beings," said the woman, 92-year-old Maxine Leary of Montpelier. "I've been sad all day today. Not angry. Just sad."
Among those taking part in the Montpelier event was Diane Kaganova, 76, of Barre.
“We need to let the people in the courts and elected to office know that there will be no peace until there is abortion protection for women,” said Kaganova, an artist and writer.
Rep. Avram Patt, D-Worcester, who also took part in the Montpelier event, said he had no doubt that Vermonters would approve Proposal 5.
“That’s the easy part,” he said. “We have to try to find ways while we’re here in Vermont to help make change in the rest of the country.”
Said Colin Flood, 34, of Woodbury, “This decision is about demoralization. They're trying to drive us to despair but two can play at that game. Now is the time for them finally to hear from us."
In Bennington, roughly 100 people gathered at the Four Corners to protest the court’s ruling. “Abortion is our right! We won’t give up this fight!” they chanted. “We are unstoppable! Another world is possible!” At times, their voices were drowned out by the honking of cars and trucks whose drivers appeared to be expressing support for the event.
Participants at the Bennington event included grandmothers with their granddaughters, mothers with their toddlers, high school students and elderly couples.
“I have a daughter who deserves the right to make a choice when she’s of age,” said Justinn Powers, 38, who attended the Bennington event.
Cree Pacher, 14, a freshman at Mount Anthony Union High School, invited her grandmother, Vicky Lampron, 60, to join her at the Bennington rally this afternoon. Pacher cited her grandmother’s advocacy over the years for reproductive rights.
Diana Gradus, 77, a resident of nearby Hoosick Falls, New York, said she was “horrified” when she heard the news that Roe had been overturned.
Gradus said she’d attended a pro-choice rally in Washington, D.C., 50 years ago, before abortion became legal in the country.
“I never dreamed that this would happen,” she said.
In Brattleboro, about 100 protesters waved signs promoting abortion rights as Friday rush-hour traffic sped by downtown’s Plaza Park.
“I’m so angry,” said Nancy Braus, owner of the nearby Everyone’s Books. “We’re going to get a whole lot of unwanted children –– and be a 19th-century country in the 21st.”
The crowd included area legislators, parents with strollers, pamphleteers advertising more action at the town’s Fourth of July parade, a chant leader with a megaphone and, shouting along, a blue furry puppet identified as Mikey Monster.
“The Supreme Court has betrayed a lot of my friends,” said a masked voice behind the puppet. “I have to stand up.”
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