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Bloomington #StopTheBans rally gathers community to support reproductive rights


Protesters stand outside around 12 p.m. on May 21 at the Monroe County Courthouse. A woman holds a sign at the #StopTheBans rally. Abby Malala

It was raining at the Monroe County Courthouse before the start of the #StopTheBans rally and reproductive justice fair Tuesday afternoon. But as supporters gathered with umbrellas and protest signs, the skies cleared.

Just over 500 #StopTheBans rallies happened at courthouses and statehouses across the country in response to restrictive legislation about reproductive rights passed last week in multiple states.

“A little rain doesn’t matter if it means that we can come save our rights,” said Andrea Smart, who attended the Bloomington rally with her family.

The national event was announced by Planned Parenthood on Friday in partnership with over 70 organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws Pro-Choice America and Women’s March, according to a Planned Parenthood press release.

The main protest took place in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington D.C. Four rallies took place in Indiana, in Fort Wayne, Columbus, Indianapolis and Bloomington.

The Bloomington rally was hosted by two local groups: Monroe County National Organization for Women, a section of the national advocacy group for the advancement of women’s rights, and Indivisible Bloomington, an advocacy group that opposes President Donald Trump’s agenda. Around 150 people were in attendance, said Shruti Rana, chair of the Monroe County NOW Reproductive Justice committee.

Abby Ang, director of membership and outreach for Monroe County NOW, kicked off the event at noon by speaking about the abortion bans and how the organizations are aiming to take action.

“The bans are not what the American people want,” Ang said. “Our event today is aimed at sending that message specifically to our Indiana and national lawmakers.”

The event provided opportunities for people to make their voices heard, such as a table Monroe County NOW set up with postcards for attendees to fill out and send to their representatives.

All 250 of the cards were filled out within 20 minutes, Rana said.

The organizers wanted community members to learn what they can do to take action in support of reproductive rights and understand health care legislation in Indiana, Rana said.

“We’d like for people to understand where Indiana’s most recent abortion bills fit into the landscape with what’s going on in states like Alabama and Georgia and Missouri,” Rana said.

She said there are issues with access to reproductive healthcare in the more rural parts of Indiana because there are only six places in the entire state that provide abortions. They are all centrally located around Indianapolis and Bloomington.

Ang introduced Paulina Guerrero, national programs manager for All-Options. All-Options runs a Hoosier abortion fund, a diaper donation program in Bloomington and a national talkline that offers peer counseling and support for pregnancy loss, adoption, abortion, infertility and parenting.

“Once again, we are seeing the lives of those most marginalized become collateral damage to policymakers,” Guerrero said. “Because to them, only some families matter.”

She said Indiana is one of 11 states which prohibits using either public or private insurance to cover the cost of an abortion unless it is a case of rape, incest or danger to the person’s life.

Rana outlined what the current makeup of the Supreme Court means for the future of Roe v. Wade, a Supreme Court case that ruled excessive state restrictions of abortion as unconstitutional.

“We can channel our outrage into productive next steps,” Rana said. “There’s a lot we can do to show our lawmakers that Hoosiers want to protect reproductive autonomy.”

After the speeches, protesters roamed around the front of the courthouse with signs displaying their support for abortion rights.

Some of the signs said “pro-choice pro-child,” “women’s rights are human rights” and “everyone deserves all options.”

Protestor John Branigin held a sign that said “Her body her choice.”

“Our legislators seem to be mostly men making these bans, so it’s important for other men to support women and trust them,” he said.

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