Citizens march, rally for reproductive rights

Manhattan community members gather at triangle park to defend reproductive rights on Saturday, Oct. 2. (Elizabeth Sandstrom | Collegian Media Group)

In conjunction with the national Women’s March, local organizers held a rally calling for reproductive rights at Triangle Park on Saturday, Oct. 2. The rally began with speaker remarks, followed by a march through Aggieville.

The rally — organized by Manhattan-resident Megan Hartford — comes as a response to a Texas law that went into effect earlier this month banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

“We’re just a concerned group of women who have been paying attention to what’s going on in Texas and know that there is a strong possibility that the same things could happen in Kansas,” Hartford said. “We just want to make our voices heard and stand up against these restrictive abortion laws.”

In her remarks, Hartford said the law would disproportionately affect black women and low-income people.

“Because our healthcare system as a whole has been failing black and brown people for as long as we’ve had a healthcare system, we can only expect this new law to exacerbate these failings,” Hartford said.

Hartford said that because the consequence of breaking the Texas law is a fine and not jail time, it is an attack on poor and low-income people.

“It’s not only the fine but also the fact that to actually obtain an abortion, one would have to travel out of state or find an alternative method, which is not feasible for most who are at a socio-economic disadvantage,” Hartford said.

Rachel Levitt, teaching assistant professor in the Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies Department, spoke about what the law means for Native people. Levitt said Indigenous people were victims of forced sterilization as part of a policy of extermination by the U.S. government.

“At one point, we’re trying to stop Native people from continuing on with generations and stop people from the ability to have children,” Levitt said. “Now we’re saying we’re also going to force you to bear children when you don’t want to. They seem opposite, but they’re a part of the same project of controlling people’s bodies.”

The law also affects transgender and non-binary people. Levitt said trans people are at particular risk of missing the “tiny window” before an abortion is not legal in Texas.

“For those of us that are on high-dose hormones or gender-neutral level hormones, some of us will ovulate but not have periods,” Levitt said. “So if we do get pregnant after either consensual sex or non-consensual sex, we don’t have periods to indicate whether or not we’re pregnant.”

Organizers of the rally encouraged attendees to conduct research and vote in local and federal elections.

“Whatever your political persuasion, what we need are people in power that are open to learning and changing their minds if they get new information,” Levitt said. “We can’t have leaders that have foregone conclusions and are unwilling to take in new information. I think that’s where voting is important.”

After the speaker remarks and a march around Aggieville, rally attendees returned to Triangle Park chanting “My body, my choice” while facing their signs toward Anderson Avenue.

“Politicians have no business in my body, your body, any persons,” rally attendee Jennifer Byarlay said. “This is not a political issue. It’s my choice, your choice. We fought this back in 1973. Put some responsibility on men, don’t put it all on women.”