'Our bodies, our choice': Warren residents rally for reproductive rights

Hannah Mackay
The Detroit News

Chants of "our bodies, our choice" rang out around Warren's city square and were met with honks of support from oncoming traffic on Van Dyke Avenue Saturday afternoon.

Over 50 people attended the emergency rally calling for reproductive justice following Friday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, which had enshrined the right to an abortion in the U.S. constitution for nearly 50 years. 

The rally, one of several protests and celebratory demonstrations that have been happening across the state since yesterday, was organized by Our Bodies Our Rights, a pro-choice group in Warren. 

Warren's Our Bodies Our Rights co-founder Mackenzie Voss leads a crowd of over 50 people in chants of "our body, our choice" at an emergency rally for reproductive rights Saturday afternoon.

Mackenzie Voss and Milena Pukalo, both 17 and recent graduates of Cousino MMSTC High School, started the group in May following the leak of the Supreme Court's draft opinion indicating they would overturn Roe v. Wade. The purpose of the group is to organize protests in the Warren area and help elect pro-choice politicians they said. 

"Since Roe v. Wade was literally overturned yesterday, we are angry over the fact that they're trying to take away basic human rights for women," Voss said. 

"We think all women should have access to abortion, to safe abortion," Pukalo added. "Nobody wants an abortion, it is a need and it is basic health care for women."

A congressional candidate in Michigan's 10th district, which includes Warren, Huwaida Arraf, encourages the crowd to vote for pro-choice candidates in upcoming primary and general elections.

Huwaida Arraf, a candidate in the five-person Democratic primary for Michigan's 10th Congressional district which includes Warren, was the only politician or candidate to attend the rally. 

"We are going to make our voices heard, we are going to march, we are organizing," Arraf said. "Make sure to vote, our vote is our voice ... because we are saying to them we will not go back and we will not back down."

Despite the Supreme Court's 6-3 decision to let states decide whether abortion is permitted within their borders, abortion is still legal in Michigan.

Planned Parenthood of Michigan and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer both filed similar lawsuits seeking to override Michigan's century-old trigger law, which would effectively ban in-state abortions with no exceptions for rape or incest, in April. Enforcement of the ban was blocked for the time being when a court of claims judge issued a preliminary injunction to Planned Parenthood last month.

The Republican-led state Legislature has since stepped in to defend the ban in court and the preliminary injunction is being challenged in the state Court of Appeals by Right to Life of Michigan, the Michigan Catholic Conference and two county prosecutors. 

Attendees of a pro-choice rally in Warren city square Saturday afternoon call for reproductive freedom in Michigan and beyond.

Saturday's protest was the first Warren resident Cheri Cholger, 48, had ever attended. Cholger said she had to support the cause for her children and granddaughter. 

"I have two kids and a granddaughter, and I think my granddaughter should have the rights I had. I'm so much older than her why is she not going to have what I had and more?" Cholger said. "I've been through pregnancies, and I know what it takes from the body and nobody should be forced to go through that if that's not what they want."

Southfield resident Jaclyn Graham, 45, also said she was attending the rally for her daughter, who will now grow up with fewer rights than she had. Graham said the Supreme Court did not think about the children who will be put into foster care as a result of their mother's not being able to access an abortion.

"They don't think about them," Graham said. "I know too many kids that have been in the system and they're not happy."

Attendees of a pro-choice rally in Warren city square Saturday afternoon call for reproductive freedom in Michigan and beyond.

Susan Sylventer, a health care worker at the Ascension Hospital in Macomb, said she attended the rally because she believes every person should have autonomy over their body. She said in several cases, including ectopic pregnancies, people need to access safe abortions. 

"I work with GYN doctors who will be literally unable to do some of the medical procedures that they need to do to save women's lives," she said. "I'm concerned for poor women who already know that maybe they can't afford it and they're doing the right things by being responsible to know that they can't afford taking care of a child."

Washington resident Lindsey Woodbury, 33, expressed concern that this decision would be the first of many rescinding rights that Americans have long held dear. 

Attendees of a pro-choice rally in Warren city square Saturday afternoon call for reproductive freedom in Michigan and beyond.

"If they're overturning things from 50 years ago, what's next?" she said. "That's kind of a bad start to a snowball effect."

Voss addressed the crowd at the rally, encouraging those in attendance to vote for politicians who will protect women's right to choose. Sterling Heights resident Sam Fish, 21, said they were rallying to fight for reproductive freedom in Michigan. 

"I'm happy that so far, it is not illegal yet," she said. "But I do believe that it is something that we must be contacting our state Legislature about it because that could be taken away if we go back to that 1930s ruling."