More than 1,000 pro-choice advocates marched down State Street to Capitol Square this Saturday afternoon to demonstrate against recent restrictions being placed on access to abortion in Texas. Earlier in the day, pro-life advocates held a similar event in the downtown area, with the two groups engaging in minor confrontations.
The Bans Off Our Bodies demonstration began at approximately 2 p.m. with protestors, accompanied by a marching band, walking down State Street before occupying the south corner of the Capitol building.
The demonstration in Madison is one of over 600 similar marches taking place across the United States to protest Senate Bill 8, which has made it illegal for a woman to receive an abortion after eight weeks of pregnancy.
At the protest, pro-choice demonstrators made largely up of students and local residents voiced their support for expanding reproductive rights and explained their concerns that access to abortion may become more restricted.
One protestor and University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate student who identified herself as Paula explained in an interview with the Cardinal that she believed access to abortion in Wisconsin is already too limited.
“The right to abortion is already curtailed for many women; there’s no access to people who don't have money or privilege,” Paula said. “Abortion is already really hard to do even in Wisconsin. You have to do a consultation, you have to get an ultrasound, you're forced to read a lot of literature that has been put there by old white men.”
Paula’s sentiments were similarly echoed by other protestors, including Rev. Kristin Gorton of the Memorial United Church of Christ, who expressed her opinion that women should be trusted with the right to receive an abortion.
“As a pastor, I feel that we can trust women. Legislation to limit the health and reproductive rights of women is against our rights and against who God has created us to be,” Gorton said. “I think that anytime a woman chooses to get an abortion it is a difficult [decision], it’s a personal one, it’s faith one, it's an economic one. It is complex and I feel that women are gifted enough by God to make their own decisions.”
Several organizations affiliated with UW-Madison attended the protest, including Socialist Alternative. In an interview, spokesman and UW-Madison senior, Will Fitzgerald, explained the group’s intention to help advocate for more expansive healthcare rights, including abortion.
“We’re here expressing our solidarity with the women’s movement, non-binary people, and everyone effected by the abortion ban that happened in Texas,” Fitzgerald stated. “We’re here to show solidarity for that movement and advance the movement past just the abortion ban and for a movement for medicare for all, for childcare and rights for working people.”
On the way to the capitol, demonstrators passed by pro-life advocates on the south side of State Street who had held a protest earlier in the day with the two groups engaging verbally with one another.
State Director of Pro-Life Wisconsin Dan Miller stated in a press release that the goal of the protest was to advocate for the complete ban on abortions in the United States by overturning the supreme court case Roe v. Wade.
"Pro-Life Wisconsinites are different than any other pro-lifer,” Miller said. “We don't fold under pressure. We will never give up until Roe v. Wade has been overturned and the personhood of the pre-born child is protected under the law”
One pro-life advocate, who declined to identify herself, explained that she felt that life begins at conception and that pro-choice demonstrators were ignoring the importance of protecting human life.
“I did get pregnant unexpectedly with my first child. I wasn’t married, I was in a bad situation and having my child was the best thing that ever happened to me. I’m so sad for people that feel so strongly for hurting someone so innocent,” the woman said. “I pray that these people and myself can see a better side and see what the best thing for each person is.”