Hundreds gathered Saturday in the shadow of the Alaska State Capitol to protest the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, ending nearly 50 years of protections for abortion access.
“We are outraged, we are disappointed, we are crushed, we are sick with fear,” said Rachel Gearhart, vice president of the Juneau’s Pro-Choice Coalition, a volunteer organization that works to promote awareness and advocacy for safe and legal reproductive rights and a person’s right to have self-determination over their bodily autonomy.
The chants “we won’t go back” and “my body my choice” echoed across the front of the capitol, with people of all genders holding signs and talking to one another about the decision reversal at the standing protest.
The JCCP and other advocates put together the protest just a day after the reversal was announced. Gearhart said the protest is the start of a long process to regain the right to abortion.
“We are tired of the devaluation of people with uteruses,” Gearhart said. “And we know that putting abortion rights in the hands of states is a huge gamble. We need you to show up, to shout, to share your stories to the system and stop acting like abortion is a bad word or a bad action.”
How the reversal will impact Alaska is yet to be determined, although currently, the state constitutional right to privacy places protections over abortion access.
People lined the center and front of the courthouse, many holding signs advocating for abortion rights and expressing opposition to the reversal. The protest included several community members who gave speeches expressing their opposition and sharing personal experiences with abortions.
State Sen. Jesse Kiehl, former state Rep. Beth Kerttula, and current state Rep. Sara Hannan also joined in with other speakers, asking people to vote for representatives that will advocate for pro-abortion rights and continue to keep Alaska’s rights to privacy solidified in the constitution. Other past and present elected officials dotted the crowd, too.
“Privacy Rights in our constitution are explicit and unique. And we need to defend them. And we need to extend that to others,” Kerttula said. “Every family has been touched by the need to have a legal, free and safe abortion. This can’t happen to us — and it especially can’t happen to us in Alaska.”
Other speakers highlighted the outsize impact abortion bans can have on marginalized communities and extends to anyone who can get pregnant, not just those who identify as women.
Robin Mulvey and her daughter Maple, 5, who was holding a baby doll, were among the other protesters at the event. Though her daughter is still young, Mulvey said she thinks it’s important to be a part of this time in history.
“It’s just something I wanted to be a part of; I feel like everyone is deeply affected by the decision,” Mulvey said. “I hope that we can head in the right direction again as a country.”
She said she explained the court ruling to her daughter, who is very excited to have kids one day, by saying that women want to be able to make choices for themselves about their bodies and when they have kids.
Ayanna Lind, 21, who also attended the event said that she felt it was necessary to come support other women across the country who are in states that are more vulnerable to losing some — if not all — protections currently available to abortion access. Lind held a sign that read “we are not ovary-acting” and “Keep your bans off our bodies”
“I woke up and cried yesterday morning. It was my wake-up call,” Lind said. “I want to be there for women who got their rights taken away because we are currently protected in our state — I just want to be there.”