‘I had the choice’: Protesters share stories, fears at Provo rally for abortion rights

Attendees said Saturday’s rally was a sign that the traditionally conservative city is ready for change.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) People gather at the historic county courthouse in Provo, protesting a day after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, on Saturday, June 25, 2022.

More than 200 protesters gathered to rally for abortion rights in Provo on Saturday, a day after the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade.

Provo — the home of Brigham Young University, operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — isn’t known for its progressiveness. But protesters Saturday said that image is changing, as more activists call the city home.

Grace Erickson, a BYU student and a member of the Latter-day Saint faith, attended Saturday’s protest. She said she has hope the community will become more inclusive, so its young people will “actually understand the world that they’re going to be living in, rather than this bubble that Provo kind of has. …

“I think it just represents that Provo is ready for a change,” Erickson said. “At the BYU campus, it can feel so polarizing being a liberal or being a Democrat. I feel like for a lot of BYU students who are liberal, we’re wanting BYU to change, we’re wanting BYU to become more inclusive, because right now they’re really not.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) People march through downtown Provo, protesting after the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade, on Saturday, June 25, 2022.

Erickson is studying public health at BYU, and she said prohibiting abortion is “directly a public health crisis.”

“If we actually looked at what the problem is, and confronted those problems first — got universal health care, got child care, got resources for families, and got contraception for families — then we could solve this problem,” Erickson said, “rather than just saying, ‘Let’s get rid of abortion.’”

One of the speakers at Saturday’s protest, 19-year-old Chloe Sokol, told the crowd about having an abortion earlier this month. It was “just crazy,” she said, that she she had more rights just two weeks ago than she does now.

“I found out that I was pregnant in the middle of May,” Sokol said. “It was a shock to me considering that not only was I on birth control, but we were also taking precautions. … When I told someone that I wasn’t feeling well, they suggested that I should take a test — and thank God that they did. Who knows how long I would have gone without realizing that I was pregnant, and by the time I might have realized it, my right to terminate that pregnancy would have been gone.”

Through the emotional process, Sokol said she never doubted her decision to have an abortion — and that no one could tell her otherwise. She said she also had lots of support through the procedure, including her boyfriend, the nursing staff and her “extremely pro-life mother.”

“She told me no one gets to make this choice but you,” Sokol said. “She even knew the importance of making my own decision, especially with something as personal as that.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) People march through downtown Provo, protesting after the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade, on Saturday, June 25, 2022.

Sokol said that her experience was “overwhelmingly positive,” and felt the stigma surrounding abortion makes it seem more traumatic than it is — when abortion really is, she said, a medical procedure.

“The thing is, whether I was scared or not, the thing that I had — I had the choice. I had the option to have my abortion and that is extremely important,” Sokol said. “It was necessary for my future, my career and my mental and physical health. I’m glad I had the opportunity to choose, but now that has been taken from us. And we have to stand up and fight back — not just for the women now, but for the women of the future.”