Around 50 people gathered Saturday morning to participate in the national Women’s March “Rally for Abortion Justice,” some carrying pro-choice posters and sporting fuchsia apparel during a walk from the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex to Soldotna Creek Park.
Kate Kendrick, one of the organizers of the local march, said there was one defining moment in her life that inspired her to speak out about women’s reproductive freedom.
“I had a child when I was 19, and it was a decision that I made mindfully and thoughtfully … but I remember that moment and being afraid, and being very comforted by the fact that I did have options,” Kendrick said.
The Women’s March organization aims to create social change and provide intersectional education on different issues facing the U.S. today, according to its website.
The movement was launched during the beginning of former President Donald Trump’s term — with the first national and international march taking place on the day after his inauguration on Jan. 21, 2017, according to the National Museum of American History.
The Washington Post reported that the first Women’s March was widely considered the largest single-day of activism in U.S. history. On Saturday, more than 600 demonstrations were planned across the country.
Recent Texas state abortion restrictions, Kendrick said, compelled her to help plan Saturday’s demonstration in Soldotna.
The legislation prohibits individuals from getting abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, and allows citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone who helps an individual attain the procedure, according to NPR. The restrictions do not exempt individuals who become pregnant from incest or rape.
“I think, initially, we were all watching what’s happening in Texas and being horrified,” Kendrick said. “And I think sometimes, when things are happening far away, we have a tendency to think that could never happen here. But the reality is, especially in Alaska, things are taking a pretty hard right turn.”
Kendrick said she also wanted to call attention to the reproductive health of LGBTQ+ people who identify as transgender or nonbinary.
“I’m a huge feminist and advocate for women’s rights,” she said. “I’m also the parent of a son with a uterus, and I want the focus to be on health care, and the fact that this is protecting health care.”
Kendrick organized the march with Summer Lazenby, who said abortion restrictions in Texas inspired her to take the lead on Saturday’s march.
“There’s a $10,000 bounty on women, which is absolutely disgusting,” Lazenby said. “We don’t have a $10,000 bounty on absent fathers … and I’m just tired of it.”
She said she was fairly pleased with the turnout for the Women’s March.
“I know this is a pretty conservative area … and it’s just nice that like-minded people are able to get together,” Lazenby said. “The beauty of America is that we are able to do this.”
The movement for her, she said, “is pretty cut-and-dry.”
“Stay out of my uterus,” Lazenby said.
The makeup of the march was majority women — some of whom said they remember the original Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling in the early 1970s that guaranteed women the right to an abortion.
Michele Vasquez, who said she has planned different women’s rights marches in the past, said she’s been fighting for reproductive rights for decades.
“I’m almost 63 years old and I cannot believe that this has been threatened,” she said before she marched Saturday.
Vasquez said prior to the Roe v. Wade ruling many women she knew had to settle for unsafe reproductive health care.
“I was in high school, but I do remember when women in my community had to seek back-alley abortions or illegal abortions, unfortunately,” she said. “None that I knew passed away, but there were a few that suffered injury and therefore were not able to have children.”
Vasquez said that she remembers pro-choice activists coming out in larger numbers back in the early ‘70s, but that she was impressed with Saturday’s turnout. She said the movement transcends generations.
“I think this is as important to the younger generation, just as important as it was to us,” Vasquez said.
Kim Howard, another demonstrator, said Saturday that she continues to rally for reproductive freedom so her kids and grandkids have more options than the women of her generation.
“I’m 67 years old, and I’ve been through this before,” she said. “I have five granddaughters and I don’t know what their choices will be as they grow up. … I’ve got nieces, I’ve got a daughter. I want them to be able to make a choice.”
Howard said the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been one of her icons and had the former justice’s famous collar depicted on her sign Saturday.
“I just appreciate her conviction,” she said.
A handful of Millennial and Generation Z folks attended the march.
Sarah Barrett said she grew up in an environment where political expression was discouraged.
“ … My entire life I wasn’t allowed to have a political opinion, especially over my body,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve been able to go out and feel strongly about this.”
Barrett came with Anton Krull, and they echoed other marchers’ concerns over abortion restriction in other parts of the country.
“There’s no reason why this should be such a contentious issue in the 21st century,” Krull said.
Barrett said she hoped the country had already gone “over the hill.”
“I thought we had kind of reached a point where we’re starting to grow, and so to see that there might be some regression makes me angry and makes me want to let my voice be heard,” she said.
David Brighton said he attended Saturday’s demonstration as an ally, and for the sake of expressing his support for personal freedom.
“I think the laws in Texas really infringe on a woman’s right to choose, and I think that’s a potential threat to everyone,” Brighton said. “This has been decided a generation ago — let’s not try to whittle away at the rights that we have.”
As a man, Brighton said he cares about women’s reproductive freedom because he’s a member of the greater community.
“I have a daughter and I have a wife, and I’m a member of the community,” he said. “It scares me that women that might be threatened, experienced sexual violence, wouldn’t have the right to choose the path of her own body.”
As the group trekked nearly 2 miles to Soldotna Creek Park, around 15 counterprotesters met them along the Sterling Highway.
The protesters waved at the demonstrators, as well as passing cars, holding anti-abortion signs that read “thou shall not kill,” “abolish human abortion,” and “life begins at conception,” among other phrases.
Lazenby thanked the Women’s March demonstrators for “not engaging” with the counterprotesters, and expressed gratitude that the opposition was respectful.
Reach reporter Camille Botello at email@example.com.