Protesters demand 'legal abortion without apology' at Detroit women's march

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Detroit — Abortion rights activists rallied in cities across Michigan and the nation on Saturday calling for supporters to stand up and fight "tooth and nail" to protect reproductive rights of women.

Speakers and sign-holders in Detroit gathered outside 36th District Court targeted the nation’s most restrictive abortion law, which has banned most abortions in Texas since early September and sent women racing to get medical services beyond the borders of the second-most populous state.

More:Biden administration urges judge to block Texas abortion law

Vivian Pendergast, a member of the Wayne State Democrats, said the reproductive rights of women have been neglected by elected officials at all levels, from local, to state to federally.

"So (we're) here today to tell our state Legislators no one is going to take away our reproductive rights. We here to show the Supreme Court, which opens up on Monday, we are here to stay and we will not let them take away our reproductive rights," Pendergast said. "We stand with those in Texas, in Mississippi and Louisiana and the rest of the United States."

Taylor Stanton, right, and others hold signs protesting recent anti-abortion legislation during a rally, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021 in Downtown Detroit. Numerous rallies and marches were held across the country.

More than 200 area residents came to the rally. Speaker Zora Monico called on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to help in the fight.

"If the (U.S.) Supreme Court can't do their job, then it's time for states to find a way to intervene," Monico said. "Gov. Whitmer, I call on you to do more. You have that seat for a reason and you need to use it. You cannot sit idly by. This abortion ban will have a rippling effect across the nation if not handled in every way possible."

Dr. Sarah Wallett said she is an abortion provider and she wants to make clear what happened in Texas has not changed anything in Michigan — for now.

"Anyone who makes the decision to end a pregnancy can do so, safely and legally," Wallett said. "That is why we are here today. Because abortion access is under attack nationwide, and here in Michigan we are facing an especially dangerous threat."

Wallett was referencing the state's pre-Roe V. Wade ban, saying if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the federal law protecting a woman's right to choose that access to abortion would be in danger in Michigan.

Whitmer has called on the state Legislature to approve a proposal sponsored by Sen. Erika Geiss, D-Taylor, that would repeal the state's 1931 law that makes it a felony to administer any medicine or substance or employ "any instrument" with the intent to "procure" a miscarriage.

Whenever We're Needed co-founder Zora Monico, of Detroit, addresses attendees during a women's march and rally, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021. Monico was one of  a few hundred who gathered in front of 36th District Court to participate in the Detroit Reproductive Rights March: Fight for Abortion Injustice. Protests were held across the country in response to anti-abortion legislation in Texas.

"We talk a lot about our right to decide," Wallett said, "but what is really at stake is the freedom to act on that decision."

Jessica Prozinski, a member of Detroit Will Breathe, said she demands free, safe legal abortion without apology.

"We take the terminology that far on purpose," Prozinski said. "We will give no quarter to the sexists and the cynics."

Jonqui Baker of Hazel Park came as a supporter of the rally wearing a Wonder Woman bustier, purple-sequin face mask, tutu and sneakers. 

"What happened in Texas affects all women," the 36-year-old said. "If it can happen there, it can definitely happen here. Every young female that is here, this is for them too. It represents our choice and freedom...Today we fight. We need to reverse what happened in Texas."

A few hundred gather in front of 36th District Court for a rally, followed by a march throughout downtown Detroit, Saturday, Oct. 2, 202, as part of the 2021 Reproductive Rights March: Fight for Abortion Injustice.

Katrina Brodeur of Clinton Township said she came out to the protest because she does not think the government should be getting involved in her medical care.

"What I am hoping is that now that Gen Z and Millennials are starting to outnumber all of the older representatives we can actually start seeing actual change," Brodeur said.

In Washington, D.C. on Saturday the first Women's March of the Biden administration headed straight for the steps of the Supreme Court, part of nationwide protests that drew thousands to Washington to demand continued access to abortion in a year when conservative lawmakers and judges have put it in jeopardy.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel attended Saturday’s march in 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," she said in a statement before the march. "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.”