Abortion rights protesters ‘rage’ at Friday rally in Eagle
Passing drivers honk and offer thumbs up in support of pro-choice protestors
EAGLE — Around 100 pro-choice protesters gathered at the Eagle County campus on Friday evening to rally in support of reproductive rights.
Black-clad protestors lined the East lawn along Sixth Street, chanting and waving signs with pro-choice messaging (often witty and often written in pink). Activity at the rally went on from 7 p.m. through around 8:30 p.m., eliciting almost exclusive support in the form of honks and thumbs-ups from cars driving past. Counter-protesting came in an unconventional form as a single motorcyclist sped by with a revving engine. The rider was promptly pulled over by Eagle police.
Remove the Eagle County building from the background, and the image could be mistaken for any number of parallel protests across the country.
The demonstration kicked off what organizers called the “Summer of Rage” in the Eagle River Valley, a nationwide protesting movement borne of the Supreme Court’s recent Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling. The landmark decision cleared the way for states to reshape abortion rights in the U.S, overturning Roe v. Wade nearly 50 years after the court first held that women have a fundamental right to abortion under the United States Constitution.
In Colorado, access to abortion at all stages of pregnancy remains legal. Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order on July 6 strengthening abortion security statewide. The mandate implemented new protections for individuals and organizations that provide abortions, including those who have traveled to Colorado from out of state to obtain the procedure.
Outside of Colorado, roughly half of the states in the country have enacted (or are in the process of enacting) legislation to ban or severely restrict abortion. Neighboring states such as Arizona, Kansas, Nebraska, Utah, and Wyoming have uniformly sought to implement anti-abortion laws, leaving Colorado and New Mexico as strongholds for legal abortion care.
Dylan Roberts, who represents Eagle and Routt counties (District 26) in the Colorado House of Representatives, and is running for the District 8 seat in the state Senate, was among the crowd at the Eagle protest. Roberts commented on Colorado’s unique geopolitical relation to the issue of abortion.
“In Colorado, the right to reproductive health care is the law of the land. I’m very thankful that this is a place where women haven’t lost their freedom,” Roberts said. “As a state, we have a responsibility to the people who live here and also the people who come here from across the country seeking health care. We have to do what we can to protect them and make sure that their freedom and liberty are not taken away by other states trying to persecute them for making certain choices,” he continued.
‘It feels like a funeral for our rights’
According to Nancy Tashman, a rally organizer and precinct committee person for the Eagle County Democrats, one of the primary goals of the rally was to make local Coloradans more aware of the important role their state will play in a Dobbs-era America.
“We have to encourage each other to continue the fight. We’re not going to give up on what we can do to help women in other states,” she said.
Tashman added that she, Ross and co-organizers Jennifer Filipowski, Lisa Lewis, Megan Peyton hoped that the rally would provide time for community members to process the ruling collectively.
“It feels like a funeral for our rights. We need a space to express our sorrow and anger that this has happened,” Tashman said.
Indeed, for protestors on Friday, “Summer of Rage” signified more than a banner head or rallying cry. Many expressed feelings of disappointment, disbelief and indignation in reaction to the court’s decision.
“Women have been delegated to second-class citizens and that’s not OK with me,” said Hannah Ross, a member of the Eagle County Democrats and co-organizer of the demonstration. “We can’t be silent.”
For many present, the issue of abortion is more than legal abstract, but rather a deeply personal issue.
Kay Delanoy, a longtime Eagle Valley resident recalled feelings of triumph when Roe was initially passed in 1973. Her mother suffered lifelong health complications after undergoing two illegal abortions during the Great Depression.
“We’ve been fighting this fight for a long time, too long a time,” she said.
According to Stephen Gordon, a former doctor of obstetrics and gynecology who attended the protest, medical problems from unsafe, illegal abortions are not something from a bygone era.
Gordon practiced for almost 40 years in Missouri and Kansas before retiring to Eagle five years ago. While the duration of his career was post-Roe, he recalled professors and mentors’ “horror stories” of women suffering sometimes-deadly complications caused by illegal abortions.
“It’s going to happen again,” he stated. “If women can’t get safe abortions … women are going to die. It should be their choice between them and their doctor.”
“I spent 36 years of my life taking care of women, and their daughters, and their mothers, and their granddaughters. It worries me as to what’s going to happen next,” Gordon said.