As Indiana lawmakers prepare for a special session where they’re expected to restrict abortion access, hundreds of Hoosiers gathered outside Jeffersonville City Hall in support of reproductive rights.
Organizers Kate Geswein and Effie Alexander planned the rally in response to the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade last week. The decision puts laws related to abortion in the hands of states, allowing many Republican-controlled legislatures, including Kentucky’s, to ban the treatment in most cases.
“Think about the women in your family, think about the people who have uteruses, the people who get periods in your family, because overturning Roe v. Wade and banning abortions, Plan B and birth control is going to make life really miserable for them,” Alexander said. “Banning it isn’t going to get rid of abortions. It’s just going to make them more dangerous.”
Alexander said similar recent protests in Louisville inspired her to organize one in Southern Indiana. She and Geswein said they only expected a few people to show up, mostly their friends.
Instead, the crowd grew into the hundreds Wednesday afternoon.
“We only shared it on a couple of outlets, so to just see so many people share it and show their support, it’s just amazing to see,” Geswein said. “And it really brings me hope.”
Geswein said the Supreme Court’s decision could have consequences beyond abortion access.
Justice Clarence Thomas said in his concurring opinion to last week’s ruling that the Supreme Court could reconsider legal precedents for contraception, same-sex sexual relations and gay marriage.
“If left to the states, there will definitely be states that choose to ban gay sex and gay marriage,” said Geswein, who is gay. “And that’s just terrifying for me to think about.”
Abortion is still legal in Indiana with some restrictions, including a ban after 22 weeks of pregnancy. That could change as early as next month, when the GOP-dominated state legislature gathers for a special session on July 25.
Many Republicans in the state, including Gov. Eric Holcomb, have signaled lawmakers will further limit abortion access during the session.
“The Supreme Court’s decision is clear, and it is now up to the states to address this important issue,” Holcomb said in a statement last week. “We’ll do that in short order in Indiana. I’ve already called the General Assembly back… and I expect members to take up this matter as well.
“I have been clear in stating I am pro-life,” he continued in the statement. “We have an opportunity to make progress in protecting the sanctity of life, and that’s exactly what we will do.”
Activist Barb Anderson, who spoke at Wednesday’s rally, was a teenager when Roe was originally decided. She said her children and grandchildren shouldn’t have to fight the same battle decades later.
“I thought that we had won the right to stand beside our men and not behind them,” Anderson said. “And so the day that [Roe was reversed], I cried. I thought that they had just moved the hands of time back.”
Anderson said she’s not a “pro-abortion advocate,” but she believes in “medical freedom,” including the ability to choose abortion.
The Supreme Court’s decision has angered women, Anderson said. And if Republican lawmakers in Indiana proceed with efforts to restrict reproductive rights, she said it could cause more Hoosiers to vote Democrat.
“This crowd was galvanized in two days,” Anderson said. “If you can do this in a small community like Jeffersonville, think of what you can do in Indianapolis in two days, or Bloomington in two days, or South Bend in two days, or any area where there’s a large college town. Let them make those choices, because there are things called elections, and it will be a short-lived victory for them.”
This article was updated to correct the date of Indiana’s special legislative session.
John Boyle is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. John’s coverage of Southern Indiana is funded, in part, by the Caesars Foundation of Floyd County, Community Foundation of Southern Indiana and Samtec, Inc.