Abortion-rights rally draws about 2,500 to Utah Capitol, including women who fought for Roe v. Wade decades ago

Planned Parenthood’s “Bans off our Beehive” event coincides with others across the country.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Marie Fulmer, Rachel Becker and Mary Phillips, from left, join protesters at the Utah Capitol for a “Bans Off Our Beehive” rally in support of abortion rights on Saturday, May 14, 2022.

It’s been over 49 years since the U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, which established a constitutional right to abortion.

But decades later, the women who fought for that ruling are still screaming to be heard. And they are fearful for what the recently leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court, which showed a a majority of the court privately voted to overturn Roe, will mean for the future of women’s rights in the U.S.

“I remember when the decision was made for birth control, let alone for abortion,” said Beverly Cooper, who was 26 when Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. “And so I’ve lived in times, and I never imagined I’d be living in a time like this. Never would I have thought this would be my future.”

Cooper was one of about 2,500 people who protested Saturday at the Utah Capitol as a part of Planned Parenthood of Utah’s “Bans Off Our Beehive” rally. Salt Lake City’s protest was accompanied by two others in Utah — in Park City and Ogden — and others across the country for a planned national day of action for abortion rights.

Cooper said the recent amount of youth support she’s seen for abortion rights is what makes recent efforts different from those in the 1960s and ‘70s. And even at 75, she said she doesn’t have a choice but to keep fighting.

“We’ve been trying to figure out how to organize young people for years — I’m sorry it took this, but I’m so glad to see them here. And men — men! Oh my gosh,” Cooper said.

“As I don’t have decision powers over my body, I’m still not considered fully human in this United States,” Cooper continued. “And that’s what I fought for, is ‘I’m a person. Recognize it.’”

Klancy de Nevers was 40 when the ruling was first announced in 1973. She had three children at the time, two of them daughters, and remembered being happy that abortion rights were finally protected.

Now, she’s scared that contraception will be legislators’ next target — and she believes women may need to start fighting back more radically by banning men from their beds until women’s reproductive rights are protected.

“I can’t believe that we are having to go through this all over again,” de Nevers said. “I can’t believe it.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Alicia Ackerman, left, and Emily Sunderland dressed in costumes from "The Handmaid's Tale," a dystopian novel that describes a future where women are forced to give birth, join about 2,500 protesters at the Capitol for a “Bans Off Our Beehive” rally in support of abortion rights on Saturday, May 14, 2022.

Many are worried that if Roe is overturned, marginalized women will be those who are affected first.

In 2020, Utah passed a trigger law which would ban elective abortions and another outlawing the procedure except in limited circumstances if Roe is overturned. The law could, potentially, take effect on the same day as the Supreme Court’s ruling if certified by the Legislature’s general counsel.

Then, the nearest states that would still allow abortions would be Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico — leaving behind women without the ability to acquire transportation and take time from work to travel for the procedure.

[Read more about who gets abortions in Utah — and what help is available if Roe v. Wade is overturned.]

“It’s an equality issue for women,” said Nan Sturgeom, who was 23 at the time of the Roe ruling. “If abortion is canceled, it will affect women in poverty more than anybody else — so it’s really not fair.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rachel Becker, Marie Fulmer, Mary Phillips and Nan Sturgeom, from left, join about 2,500 protesters at the Utah Capitol for a “Bans Off Our Beehive” rally in support of abortion rights on Saturday, May 14, 2022.

At 28, Natalie Pinkney wasn’t a part of the efforts for abortion rights almost half a century ago. But she’s heartbroken the women who fought so hard before her are having to fight yet again.

“How long did it take us to fight for that?” said Pinkney, who organized Saturday’s rally and serves as vice chair of the South Salt Lake City Council. “And I think about the other rights that were impacted — for me, I really think about how long did it take for Brown vs. Board of Education, the 13th Amendment, for women to have the right to vote? We have to continue to fight for this.

“Seeing the women who’ve been here from literally before, after and now, it is bittersweet, because in a way we have a direction,” Pinkney said, “But we also know that in your lifetime, it could be night and day, on what can switch.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) About 2,500 protesters gather at the Utah Capitol for a “Bans Off Our Beehive” rally in support of abortion rights on Saturday, May 14, 2022.