On Saturday, Athens residents gathered outside the Athens County Courthouse for a third protest since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
The first protest took place on June 24, only hours after Roe v. Wade was overturned. The second protest took place on June 28 and drew a smaller crowd, which encouraged those who had not previously participated to attend Saturday’s protest. Makenzie Price, an Ohio University senior studying communications, said Saturday’s protest was the largest she had seen.
“They had a protest the day that it happened, but … the day it happened people were just kind of grieving; I was grieving,” Price said. “I couldn't go out there that day. I wanted to do it but I just couldn't. I'm glad this is the first big protest here, and I know there's going to be even more when the students come back.”
Ari Faber, who works with United Campus Ministries Center, helped plan the protests outside the Courthouse. Faber said there was a petition circulating at the protest to limit the abortion penalties in Athens.
“It's a petition that's written to the mayor, the prosecutor, OUPD, Athens police and City Council, urging them to basically do with abortion (what) they've done with cannabis with the TACO ordinance, making it either not prosecuting the cases or having it carry zero penalty,” Faber said.
The decision in the landmark 1973 case, Roe v. Wade, gave women the constitutional right to have an abortion. When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the legality of abortions was left to individual states to decide.
“When I first heard about this, I cried and I was sad,” Price said. “I'm still going through that but when I got out and protested, I felt better because it felt like I was making a difference.”
Similarly, Faber felt the need to organize a protest immediately following the Supreme Court’s decision.
“My first thought was on starting to organize planning this, how we can start to do things to be able to protect people who need access to healthcare, to abortions?" Faber said.
Shortly after the Court’s decision, Ohio Senate Bill 23, otherwise known as the “heartbeat bill,” was put into effect. The bill, which was passed in 2019, prohibits abortions once a heartbeat is detected. The bill does not provide exceptions for rape or incest, but there is an exception for medical emergencies.
Also present at the protest was Athens resident Emma Riley, who said she does not agree with the “heartbeat bill.”
“I think it's really unfair because a lot of people don't know (they’re pregnant) at that time,” Riley said. “It's really just banning abortion because it's not really making a difference.”
Faber said there are multiple complications that can stem from the “heartbeat bill.”
“(Banning abortion) is awful for everybody with how many children that already are in foster care needing homes and how overworked our foster care system is, it's just going to lead to that being even more overwhelmed,” Faber said.
Additionally, many are worried about the potential ban of contraceptives within the U.S. Faber said if contraceptives become banned, it could lead to dangerous outcomes.
“Contraception would prevent people from needing an abortion potentially,” Faber said. “It's going to lead to so many more people finding themselves with unwanted pregnancies, not knowing what to do (and) it's going to endanger the lives of people who can become pregnant.”
Faber said there will be coalition meetings within the following weeks that would plan more protests, organize carpools to distant protests and provide resources for medication-induced abortions.
“The fact that a lot of men are making these decisions … it just seems very unfair,” Price said. “I want abortion to be completely legal and I want that to be something that the Supreme Court would rule.”