Hundreds of people rally for reproductive rights in Pittsburgh in nationwide protest

Abortion rights supporters filled half a dozen city blocks as they marched through downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday. The march was part of a national call to protect reproductive rights after Texas instituted the most restrictive abortion law in the country – and ahead of the next Supreme Court term, in which a conservative majority of the judges could rule on the future of Roe v. Wade.

“We won’t back down… we won’t let the reality of Texas become the reality of this country,” Becky Foster, chair of the board of Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania, told a crowd of hundreds at the exterior of the City-County Building. .

Protesters gathered around noon for a rally before marching through the city center.

Kiley koscinski

Protesters march through downtown Liberty Avenue on Saturday, calling for the protection of reproductive rights. The march was among hundreds planned across the country.

According to the Women’s March, an organization that held annual protests during Donald Trump’s presidency, more than 600 rallies were planned in all 50 states Saturday.

The Pittsburgh Women’s March organized the local protest. Group leader Tracy Baton said she was stunned by the turnout. The overwhelming majority of the demonstrators were women.

“It shows how much the people of Pittsburgher care about the right to choose and [that] they are ready to set foot in the streets for that, ”she said.

Speakers focused heavily on eliminating elected officials who do not support reproductive rights.

Abortion is legal in Pennsylvania until approximately 24 weeks pregnant. Republicans-backed legislation pending in Harrisburg – but which would certainly meet a veto from Gov. Tom Wolf if passed – would ban the procedure after a doctor identifies a fetal heartbeat, usually around six weeks.

Another bill passed by State House in June would ban abortions requested only because of a diagnosis of Down’s syndrome.

“Before Texas we used to say ‘This could never happen’, but it has happened. And here we are,” said Chardae Jones, Mayor of Braddock. “It’s time to get the legislation out of our ovaries. It’s time to get rid of the legislation from our ovaries. it’s time to put our voices where we vote, it’s time to move forward, not back down.

US Representative Mike Doyle was one of two men who spoke to the crowd. “Women and single women should be making decisions about their bodies,” Doyle said. “In Congress, I’m happy to be an ally… and we’re going to scrap the Hyde Amendment so that a person’s income is not based on whether or not they have access to reproductive services.”

The Hyde Amendment prohibits the use of federal dollars for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or to save a woman’s life. Doyle has supported the amendment in the past, but co-sponsored a congressional bill that would repeal the Hyde Amendment in 2019.

A handful of other speakers encouraged those in attendance to call their representatives and encourage them to vote against bills against the right to abortion. Voter registration activists were on hand to register new voters and educate protesters on how they can contribute to voter registration efforts.

“Only by exercising our power at the polls can we achieve the change we need,” said Baton.

Other speakers shared their experience with abortions. Sydney Paige, medical student and volunteer for Pro Choice with Heart, spoke about her experience with sexual assault and homophobia.

“Our right to choose has been systematically taken away at every step. Our local, state and federal government continued to let down girls like me, ”she said.

Brenda Tate, chair of the Allegheny County Black Caucus, shared a childhood story about a neighbor who died after an abortion in an alleyway.

“For many years… I said I was going down the alley and death,” she said. ” I’m not coming back [to] the small street. You don’t go back to the alley. We’re not going back to the alley! she cried to a roaring crowd.

Laura Horowitz, a volunteer escort with pro-choice escorts from Pittsburgh, spoke about what anti-abortion activists yell at women when they enter clinics. Horowitz has escorted women from their cars to the clinic since the 1990s.

“If we weren’t there, there is a certainty that [anti-abortion-rights protesters] physically prevent patients and staff from entering the clinic, ”she said. But women are still subjected to verbal abuse and intimidation, she added.

The crowd descended on Grant Street and Liberty Avenue before returning to the City-County Building to disperse. Police have closed moving streets to help the march.

A small group continued to march in response to a rowdy after the majority of the crowd left.

The streets reopened shortly after 2 p.m.

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