CLEVELAND — Protesters gathered at the Free Stamp at Willard Park Saturday afternoon and evening in Cleveland to protest the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe V. Wade.
At around 1 p.m., protesters rallied at the Free Stamp near East 9th Street and Lakeside Avenue before marching with signs and megaphones through downtown.
“I think it’s important for women and people who can have kids to have control over when they can have their kids,” said Janice Sikon.
The protest was called Decision Day Action In Cleveland: We Won't Go Back, and is hosted by the Cuyahoga Democratic Women's Caucus and Mobilize the vote. CLICK HERE for more information.
"We must organize to sound an undeniable alarm to emboldened local lawmakers that they cannot further erode an already insufficient right to abortion and sexual and reproductive healthcare for so many," event organizers said.
The afternoon rally attracted all ages, including 3 generations of the Fink-Underhill family.
“It makes me sad for my country. That’s really all I have to say now,” said Jane Underhill, 23.
Underhill's mother, Mary Kay Fink, added, “It makes me sad that my daughter has fewer rights than I did at her age.”
Underhill's 99-year-old grandmother and namesake, Jane Fink, also attended the event. She recalled advocating for abortion access prior to the 1973 Roe V. Wade ruling.
“It never dawned on me that someone would be so stupid to get rid of Roe v. Wade," Jane Fink said. "I mean, that just never entered my mind.”
Emotions continued running high into Saturday evening, when a second rally took place in downtown Cleveland. The group of protesters walked through downtown streets, condemning the SCOTUS decision and calling on Ohio lawmakers to enact legislation protecting abortion access.
Roe v Wade overturned
On Friday, Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years in a decision by its conservative majority to overturn Roe v. Wade. Friday's outcome is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.
The decision, unthinkable just a few years ago, was the culmination of decades of efforts by abortion opponents, made possible by an emboldened right side of the court that has been fortified by three appointees of former President Donald Trump.
The ruling came more than a month after the stunning leak of a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito indicating the court was prepared to take this momentous step.
It puts the court at odds with a majority of Americans who favored preserving Roe, according to opinion polls.
President Joe Biden said Saturday that his administration is focused on seeing how states implement their restrictions.
“The decision is implemented by states; my administration is going to focus on how they administer it and whether or not they violate other laws by deciding to not let women cross state lines to get public health services,” Biden said before signing a major gun reform package. “We are going to take actions to protect women’s rights and reproductive health.”
Anti-abortion advocates react
Others in Northeast Ohio were optimistic about the Friday decision. Joseph Meissner of Lawyers for Life has been fighting to overturn Roe V. Wade since 1973 and said the state now has an opportunity to change course.
“It’s a celebration that human lives are supposed to be protected by law. If that happens, then we should celebrate. By the way, the celebration goes on, on and on for years and years into the future, ensuring women get the help they need so they don’t feel forced into an abortion,” Meissner said.
He and others believe the emphasis now should be supporting pregnancy centers and adoption.
At a Saturday event, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) told News 5, "Most Americans, certainly most Ohioans, do believe that life is precious and do believe that we should more to avoid abortions. That’s why I strongly support adoption, why I strongly support preventative measures, strongly support helping women who are in a very difficult decision with a pregnancy.”
On Friday, the Ohio Attorney General announced a court injunction had been dissolved and a six-week abortion ban bill is now law in the state. It prohibits most abortions beyond six weeks of pregnancy.
Saturday, Democratic lawmakers appealed to demonstrators to vote and help elect abortion advocates to the Ohio statehouse.
“What I’m going to be working on is getting Democrats into the Governor’s office and getting folks all the way down the ticket to be able to bring our voice all the way to the statehouse,” said State Sen. Nickie Antonio (D-district 23).
Many on both sides of the debate believe the conversation is unlikely to end anytime soon.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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