GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Hundreds of people gathered outside Grand Rapids City Hall on Saturday afternoon to call for abortion rights.
The Grand Rapids rally is the latest in a number of abortion-rights protests, which have grown nationwide since the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel told the crowd that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, she won’t enforce Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban. That law would ban abortions, even in cases of rape and incest.
“Decisions should be made by women and their doctors and their families and not politicians in Lansing or Washington D.C.,” she said.
She wants to replace the 1931 law with a measure keeping abortion legal across Michigan.
“We’ll get rid of the 1931 law and replace the statute specifically making abortion and birth control legal in our state,” Nessel said. “We need to re-elect our very pro-choice Governor Gretchen Whitmer so she can sign such a bill.”
Nessel also encouraged the crowd to support other Democrats in the November elections, register to vote and sign the petition that would let voters decide whether abortion should remain legal in Michigan.
That initiative, called “Reproductive Freedom for All,” needs 425,000 signatures by July 11 to make the ballot in the fall.
State Rep. Rachel Hood, D-Grand Rapids, and Hillary Scholten, who is running to represent Michigan’s 3rd congressional district, were among other Democrats who spoke at the rally.
Emily Hanlon, a volunteer with Planned Parenthood and the Women’s March, co-organized the rally. She is thrilled by the turnout.
“We had over 700 people register on Mobilize,” she told News 8. “And 600 on Facebook. To see that many people say, ‘yeah, we’ll be there, us too, we’re on board,’ is so important for this community to see.”
Hanlon said she hopes the turnout can help make a difference.
“We are pro-choice,” Hanlon said. “Although it’s not a choice all my neighbors would make, we are hoping that others can look at this turnout, and this group of people can understand that we all deserve to be in charge of our own future.”
Danya Roweka, another advocate for abortion rights, was also pleased by the big crowds.
“I think sometimes, especially with this issue, women can feel alone, and they can feel like they’re the only ones who support this,” Roweka said. “And they’re not. It’s important for us to show women that we support them, and we will fight for their right to choose.”
A group of anti-abortion protesters showed up during the event, motivating a crowd of abortion-rights protesters to march over and start chanting.
“Life begins in the mother’s womb,” Derek, an anti-abortion protester, told News 8. “And so we want to give a voice to those who are not yet born. The people that are out here today are cheering for and promoting death.”
“Our God is a God who loves life,” Derek said. “He gave his life so that we can live. And so we want to give babies who are not yet born that opportunity to live.”
“That’s why we’re here,” Daniel, another anti-abortion protester, said. “Because we love souls.”
Abortion-rights protesters, like Grand Rapids resident Chelsea Conner, say this is about more than abortion rights.
“It’s not just about an abortion, it’s about all of these things,” Conner said. “Birth control. Everything is on the table. And it’s scary. It’s really scary.”
One demonstrator held a sign that read, ‘I do not regret my abortions.’ Conner held up a sign with the words, ‘a mother by choice, for choice.’ She said she attended the rally for her daughter.
“I wanted my babies, and not everyone has the privilege to be able to get healthcare and certain things,” Conner said. “I had the choice. And I had the options available to me.”
“Everyone is in different walks of life,” Conner went on to say. “Everyone isn’t in the same situation. And they need to have the choice to have their options.”