Local reproductive rights group Athenians for Bodily Autonomy, or ABA, held a rally on Sunday to promote abortion access.
The rally began at 2 p.m. in front of the Athens County Courthouse. Louise Stewart, an ABA member and English Ph.D. student, helped organize the protest.
Stewart said the rally is the third one the group has hosted. She said she hopes the rally will energize voters and encourage people to vote for breaking the laws against abortion.
Ari Faber, a member of ABA, also helped organize the rally. Faber said he hopes the rally will make people aware of things the group is doing in Athens and help people get involved.
Jamie Miller, a junior studying photojournalism and women’s gender and sexuality, spoke at the rally about his experience as a man with a uterus.
“I have never had an abortion. I don’t know what that feels like … I am, however, a standing, breathing reminder that access to birth control and access to abortion affects those of us who are not women,” Miller said. “To be trans and to survive is a miracle. To live in a body that I love is a blessing. To be autonomous, to own your body, to feel like yourself...These are things that so many men take for granted.”
In between the speakers, organizers led people in chants. There was a list of 21 chants, including one with a call-out to Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn and Athens County Sheriff Rodney Smith. Faber said the group has heard no response from either of them concerning their request to make Athens a sanctuary city.
Faber said in 2021, 21,000 abortions were provided across the state of Ohio, meaning that nearly 60 were provided each day.
“The decision to get or not to get an abortion is a deeply personal one made between an individual and their provider, and no one else,” Faber said. “The government wants to stay out of health care until it comes (to) the health care of marginalized groups. They suddenly believe they have the authority to dictate which procedures can and cannot be performed, despite what experts have said.”
Stewart spoke about the importance of voting when it comes to breaking laws against abortion.
“When you bring together all of the people who are oppressed or suffering under white supremacist Christian capitalist cis-hetero patriarchy right now, we are the majority,” Stewart said. “And that is why a vocal minority is working so tirelessly to destroy democracy. Because they don’t have the numbers to retain power if we all turn out and vote in free and fair elections, and they know it.”
Maya Knopp, one of the speakers at the rally, said a ban on abortion does not stop abortions from happening, it simply stops safe abortions from happening.
"People will still seek out and get abortions when they are banned. They are just infinitely more dangerous for the people seeking them and create a population of people who can be fed to the prison industrial complex,” Knopp said. “Without a doubt, abortion can save lives. They’re a health care decision made by an individual to protect themselves. I repeat, abortion bans cost lives.”