As part of a nationwide rally challenging the recent and controversial Texas abortion ban, nearly 100 protestors gathered in front of the World Cup Café on the corner of Taos Plaza Saturday (Oct. 2) in conjunction with approximately 600 other rallies across the country.
Women and men of all ages gathered on the street corners to show their support for reproductive freedom and their disapproval of new and proposed legislation that seems to be chipping away at the foundation of Roe v. Wade, the monumental Supreme Court case establishing a woman's right to an abortion. Honks of support from passing cars were persistent throughout the two-hour protest.
The nationwide protests came on the heels of another proposed abortion ban in Mississippi that is set to be taken up by the Supreme Court in December, which some senators see as a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.
"We're afraid that if Roe v. Wade is revoked, we're going to have 24 states that automatically revert to a pre 'Roe' state law which outlaws abortion," said Caroline Yezer, one of the rally coordinators. She called the new Texas abortion law banning abortions after six weeks "draconian and ridiculous," and noted that "very few women know if they're pregnant after six weeks."
Yezer, along with other organizers Amber Feavearyear and Katie Kolosovsky hoped to send a message that Taos (and the rest of New Mexico) were strongly in opposition to new abortion regulations in any state. The rally was also supported by TaosUnited (a local nonprofit), Taos CODE PINK activists and the Taos Democratic Party.
Their overall objectives were to align with the national movement opposing abortion bans "and to protect not just the right to abortion for everyone ... but access to abortion covered by private healthcare insurance and Medicaid," said Yezer.
Rally coordinator Katie Kolosovsky has lived in Taos for 20 years and is a registered nurse. "We are not going to tolerate these legislative changes," she said. Kolosovsky said the gathering was to show the public that "there is no more important factor" than the right to have an abortion that determines a woman's future when it comes to finances and general health. "We are asserting that abortion care is just basic medical care."
Many protestors said they were frustrated that abortion rights seem to be moving backwards, slowly becoming more archaic. "I feel like I've been doing this forever," said Peggy Wolff as she fought back tears. Wolff said she has been marching for reproductive rights since 1985.
"From the day Roe [v. Wade] passed, we started having to fight to keep it legal, and finally it was safe," Wolff said, adding that she was discouraged to see the deterioration of the progress of the women's rights movement. "It's just infuriating … the new law really just shows a lack of understanding of what really goes on out here," she said.
Several protestors traveled from outside the county. Kristy Wolf said she came from Mora County to join the Taos rally. "I believe that if they take this right away from us, they will take it away from my children, my grandchildren and my friends," she said. "Pretty soon we won't have any rights at all."
Wolf said she felt that men had "no business making choices for women."
"The silent majority is back," said Lyn Crenshaw who was visiting town for the annual Wool Festival. "I just think that it's a terribly important issue, and very complex. I think the fewer voices are loud, and the majority needs to speak up too."
Liz Doke said she drove up from Rio Rancho and planned her weekend around the rally. She said abortion saves lives in many instances "and no one should be taking that away from us."
Doke noted that people from Texas have been traveling to different states to seek abortions, New Mexico being one of them. A recent article in the Santa Fe New Mexican also reported that visits to New Mexico abortion clinics by Texans has been on the rise.
State Representative Kristina Ortez, who was also in attendance, echoed the concern for Texan women. "I want to be very, very clear that I am here for all women, but especially the women of Texas right now. We are a state that is a sanctuary state for women to access the health care they need, and abortion care is health care."
Others acknowledged the political and religious issues involved in the abortion debate. Taos resident Satrupa Kagel said she realized many Roman Catholics in the area have religious reservations about abortion, but said they should still respect choice. She said she respects theirs.
"Our constitutional rights say that this is a secular country, which means that individuals can have their own religion and live their lives freely without interference from the government, but that doesn't mean they can interfere with other people's right to freedom to live their lives according to their own principles," said Kagel.
Kagel also pointed out what seemed like an irony in the system. "Unfortunately those who have the power then do not provide for a woman when they're pregnant, as they go through their pregnancy, or after pregnancy," she said referring to the lack of funding for pre-kindergarten and child healthcare.
Yeger said she fears the fight for abortion rights is still far from over.
"We anticipate that this free choice fight will be a long haul and intend to keep our local organizing for abortion rights and access going as needed," she said.