Cheryl Bukoff, 76, remembers when Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. Now, nearly 50 years later, the Detroit woman is fighting to uphold that constitutional right to abortion.
“When I was a young person in Michigan, we didn’t have these rights and women had to go to Chicago or somewhere else to have an abortion. And it just puts womens’ health in jeopardy,” Bukoff said. “Women have more resources now than they did then, and that’s great, but somehow we’ve let the anti-choice people reduce what we can do.”
Bukoff, along with hundreds of other people from across the state, gathered Saturday in front of the state Capitol for the “MI Body MI Choice March” for reproductive rights.
This was one of hundreds of rallies happening across the country before the U.S. Supreme Court begins its new term on Monday.
The Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 right-wing majority, agreed to hear arguments Dec. 1 on a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks. The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, poses a significant challenge to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling that declared abortion to be a constitutional right.
“This really is an alarming time for women in our country, given the Republican majority now in the U.S. Supreme Court. It is very scary and the stakes could not be higher. And that’s why we’re here, because we understand how high the stakes are,” said U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing), who is a sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act.
Stabenow was among a list of speakers, including state Rep. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) and state Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor), who spoke in Lansing about the threat to Roe v. Wade, the Texas abortion ban and Michigan’s current restrictions on abortions.
Attorney General Dana Nessel attended the Women’s March in Washington, D.C.
“Today I march alongside and represent those who refuse to stand idly by as states and legislators across our nation work to erode the rights of women to make medical decisions about their bodies and lives,” Nessel said. “Make no mistake, federal precedent surrounding reproductive rights is under attack. These attempts to unravel the rights so many hold dear are a slap in the face to women and a step backward for our country. I recognize my responsibility to fight back against these efforts, and remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose.”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also has spoken openly about doing what she can to ensure that abortion care remains legal in Michigan and has asked the GOP-led Legislature to repeal Michigan’s 1931 pre-Roe abortion ban criminalizing abortion that the state could fall back on if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
In August, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion allowing another abortion ban, Texas’ Senate Bill 8, to go into effect, which banned the procedure as early as six weeks with no exceptions for incest or rape. It also allows private individuals to sue anyone who they believe is providing abortions or assisting someone in accessing an abortion.
“Now some of you may be thinking, well that’s all the way in Texas. We don’t have to even worry about this,” Anthony said to the crowd. “I’ve got news for you: we do. To be clear, this Texas law sets a dangerous legal precedent and could be a path for states, such as Michigan, to override people’s constitutional rights.”
The abortion fight is also talking place on a local level, with one Michigan community that already wants to implement a strict abortion ban.
Hillsdale, a small city near the Ohio border best known as the home of conservative Hillsdale College, proposed an ordinance in early August hat would ban abortions within the city limits. The ordinance would also make it illegal to “aid or abet” an abortion that occurs within city limits, such as providing transportation, instructions or money for an abortion.
“That made me an activist,” said Hillsdale resident Kathryn Watkins. “I never really considered myself an activist until this all hit home. And then I realized that we all absolutely have the power to make a change in the world and in our country. We can’t be afraid; we have to step up; we have to speak; we have to use our voices.”
Originally published October 2, 2021 on Michigan Advance. It is shared here with permission.
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