Durango reproductive rights activists marked Sunday, the 50-year anniversary of Roe v. Wade, to voice concern about a woman’s right to chose after the precedent was overturned in June by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The group gathered at the intersection of 11th Street and Main Avenue to protest the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization as part of a march called “Bigger than Roe.” The Dobbs ruling gave states full power to regulate any aspect of abortion not protected by federal law.
Since the ruling, some states have banned abortions outright creating cause for concern among reproductive rights activists.
“Bigger than Roe” was a nationwide movement Sunday with marches across the country. In addition to marking the anniversary of Roe, the movement was meant to show support for pro-choice advocates in Madison, Wisconsin, who are preparing for a state Supreme Court election that could influence reproductive laws in that state.
The march was led by Indivisible Durango and Durango High School’s Women in Leadership Development club.
“I think that this is a right that you're taking away from women and more (rights) will follow,” said Indivisible event organizer Karen Pontius. “We're seeing those kinds of things be raised and they’re turning women's reproductive issues into something they jail us for.”
Pontius’ concern was that some state legislatures around the country are punishing women for making decisions about their own bodies. As of Jan. 6, there were 13 states with full abortion bans in affect, including states such as Alabama, Texas and Oklahoma that make no exceptions in the case of rape or incest.
Resident Carolyn Hunter stood at the intersection holding a sign that read “Equality Means Choice.”
She said it is not fair to force women to have a child if they don’t want to go through with a pregnancy.
“It takes so much energy to raise a child,” she said. “You've got to really want that child in order to do it, and it’s the hardest job in the world.”
In Colorado, abortion rights are protected under the Reproductive Health Equity Act. But Pontius is concerned about U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert’s introduction of a bill that would defund Planned Parenthood.
According to the bill, $235 million would be redirected to other health centers that offer Women’s Health Care Services. However, the act would prohibit any centers from receiving that funding if they perform abortions, with the exception of instances involving rape and incest, as well as situations where a birth could be life-threatening to the mother.
Pontius said it is worrisome because abortion services make up only a small percentage of Planned Parenthood’s overall mission. Most visits are related to women’s reproductive health or scanning for harmful illnesses like breast cancer.
Durango High School students also spoke out against the Dobbs ruling. Women in Leadership Development is a group of students that focuses on empowering women interested in the outdoors to pursue political activism.
“We really want to encourage the younger generations to be involved in the political process because it is really important,” said club co-founder Nina Quayle.
Quayle said the ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade impacts younger generations because there are teenagers who are growing up without reproductive rights. Also, there are high school students in need of reproductive health care who don’t have a voice because they are not of voting age.
According to data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 158,043 births from mothers between the ages 15 and 19 in 2020, which is the last year data was calculated from the CDC.
The same data show that Colorado had a teen birthrate of 12.4 per 1,000 females between 15 and 19 years old.
The club’s other co-founder Willow Lott said their goal for the rally Sunday was to engage the community and keep people informed.
“Students do care about this issue and they just need an outlet for it,” Lott said.
Harrison Wendt, a candidate for Durango City Council, helped lead a march in October and he attended Sunday’s rally.
“Some people would have the misconception that a city council member doesn’t have the same responsibility that a legislative member would,” Wendt said. “I disagree. I think our efforts and work should be focused around justice and equality.”