Hundreds rally for abortion rights in downtown Dayton

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Dayton abortion rights rally May 14

Hundreds of people packed courthouse square in downtown Dayton Saturday afternoon to protest for reproductive rights, part of a wave of pro-choice rallies across the country.

The protest follows the leak of a draft opinion indicating a conservative majority in the U.S. Supreme Court could overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.

Protestors held signs saying “Never again,” and “We won’t go back,” often with pictures of or physical coat hangers.

Several women came forward during the rally to share their stories. Laura Horan spoke to the crowd of hundreds, describing how her physically abusive ex-husband had repeatedly gotten her pregnant to keep her from leaving him.

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Protestors chant "Pro-life is a lie, you don't care if women die," at a pro-abortion rally in Dayton Saturday. LONDON BISHOP/STAFF

Protestors chant "Pro-life is a lie, you don't care if women die," at a pro-abortion rally in Dayton Saturday. LONDON BISHOP/STAFF

caption arrowCaption
Protestors chant "Pro-life is a lie, you don't care if women die," at a pro-abortion rally in Dayton Saturday. LONDON BISHOP/STAFF

“If he knew I was planning to leave, I would probably be leaving in a body bag,” she said. “He knew I was unhappy, and saw he was starting to lose control. And what was the one thing in the past that had kept me from leaving? Pregnancy. I couldn’t let that happen again.”

After having her fifth child, Horan told the crowd, she secretly went to a delivery clinic, without her husband’s knowledge.

“If I was pregnant, I would have an abortion,” she said. “It was the only way to escape and protect my other five living, breathing children. I realized right then that this wasn’t about protecting life. This was about control, and keeping me in my place. This was about making us submit. I realized that submitting was not an option anymore,” she said.

ExploreIf Roe V. Wade is overturned, what’s next for Ohio?

Dayton City Councilwoman Shenise Turner-Sloss also spoke to the crowd, saying that the possibility of repealing Roe is “gut-punching,” and that this is a “make-or-break moment for our democracy.”

“This issue is not simply about women’s right to choose. This is about rights to sexual and reproductive health, that are basic human rights,” she said. “This does not negate my stance on encouraging responsible planning and parenting. Abortion should not be backup plans for irresponsible behavior. However, we know there are numerous reasons and circumstances that women endure on a daily basis that cause women to exercise their reproductive rights.”

Horan said that overturning Roe affects everyone, and will give abusers another tool to control and denigrate their victims.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re pro-life or pro-choice, religious or not religious,” she said. “Abusers will use these laws to track their victims. If you’re carrying their baby, they will turn you in if you try to leave. If you don’t try to leave, some of them will turn you in, to separate you from your children, to have access to their children and not be held accountable for the abuse that they do.”

At intervals, chants broke out of “Pro-life is a lie, you don’t care if women die,” “Abortion is healthcare,” and “Bans off our bodies.”

“This is a healthcare issue, I think this is a slippery slope, where people are concerned about a legitimate issue, but it’s being used as a door opener to many other things that would restrict healthcare for women,” said Cassandra Palotas, citing recent proposed bans for birth control in some states.

Ohio lawmakers are considering two so-called “trigger bans,” Senate Bill 123 and House Bill 598, which would automatically ban abortions in the state if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe. The laws include exception if necessary to prevent death or irreversible bodily impairment of the pregnant person, but no exceptions for rape or incest.

A few counter-protestors, mostly male, were in attendance. Some carried signs saying “Abortion is murder,” and “Babies’ lives matter.”

“God has given us life, and it’s wrong to take it,” one said. “That man that rapes that woman, that is totally wrong and that man should be put to death. But what’s done is done. And I believe that woman, that baby could be the biggest blessing that woman could ever have.”

Demonstrators also gathered at Courthouse Square in downtown Xenia Saturday in support of abortion rights.

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