Dozens of Delawareans join day of action to support abortion rights

Delaware supporters of abortion rights rallied against restrictions passed in other states. (Zoë Read/WHYY)

Delaware supporters of abortion rights rallied against restrictions passed in other states. (Zoë Read/WHYY)

About 100 Delaware residents, activists, lawmakers and clergy stood on the steps of Rodney Square in Wilmington Tuesday in support of abortion rights.

Holding signs, they chanted, “Our bodies, our rights.”

Last week, Alabama’s governor signed legislation banning abortion. Alabama’s measure — the most extreme since 1973’s Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalized abortion — includes exceptions only if the woman’s life is in danger.

The “National Day of Action to Stop the Bans” came in response Alabama ban, as well as bills enacted or nearing passage in Mississippi, Kentucky, Ohio, Georgia and Louisiana aimed at banning abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected. That can happen in the sixth week of pregnancy before many women know they’re pregnant. Missouri lawmakers have passed an eight-week ban.

None of the laws has taken effect, and all will likely be blocked while legal challenges play out.

Organizers of the national day of action — including Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America and the American Civil Liberties Union — predicted tens of thousands of people would attend hundreds of events scheduled in all 50 states.

“When you have deserts for abortion care, our research shows women die because of that. The mortality rate for women. The number of women who try self-induced abortion who become desperate is bigger. And the states who have safety will have many women trying to get to us now for care,” said Ruth Lytle-Barnaby, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Delaware.

“To not call it health care, and to not treat it like other health care, and women have to find money out of pocket or someone to help them is a travesty, and we need to address that.”

The Delaware General Assembly changed its abortion laws a few years ago to match the language in Roe v. Wade. It upholds abortion rights even if the U.S. Supreme Court ruling is overturned.

Legislation was introduced in Delaware this year to ban abortion after 20 weeks with some exceptions, and to require doctors to offer an ultrasound before an abortion decision. But those measures have not advanced. In the House, the bills were tabled.

“Women have the right to make decision about their bodies. Women’s health should not be in the lawmaker’s hands, period,” said state Rep. Melissa Minor Brown, D-New Castle, a nurse who also expressed her support for Planned Parenthood and women’s health during the rally.

She said she wouldn’t be surprised if similar bills are introduced again, but she believes they will be shot down.

Pat Morrison of Wilmington said she attended the event because she’s tired of the debate — and wants to show solidarity with women across the country.

“It’s fueled by white men who know nothing. They don’t know the biology of pregnancy, they have not been pregnant, and they don’t care about women, they don’t care about children — they just care about having power over women,” she said. “I’m 68 years old, I’ve been watching this and dealing with this forever, and I’m just tired of it. And I don’t know what to do besides join people who also are tired of it and keep fighting against this.”

In Washington, a demonstration outside the Supreme Court drew hundreds of protesters and several Democratic presidential candidates. Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, in addition to Reps. Eric Swalwell of California and Tim Ryan of Ohio, were among the attendees as multiple members of Congress spoke to a crowd that hoisted signs defending abortion rights.

“I cannot tell you how important this moment in our country’s history is,” Gillibrand said. “Do not allow this moment to lapse without putting everything you can behind it. Organize, advocate and vote.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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