On the steps of the Utah Capitol, hundreds of protesters held signs to express their anger and fears Sunday evening.
“My body, my choice.”
“I’m a woman, not a womb.”
“I have a heartbeat, too.”
Kathleen Ewanowski stood at the edge of the crowd and held her own sign: “It’s been 17 years. I don’t regret my abortion.”
It is a story that Ewanowksi has shared with her close friends — how she got pregnant as a teenager in Wisconsin and had to travel across state lines to Illinois to get the procedure.
“There was a lot of shame and stigma growing up,” she said. “My parents still don’t know. … Until today.”
But as protesters in Utah and across the nation took to the streets for the third straight day since the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark reversal of Roe v. Wade, women everywhere have made it clear that now is not a time for silence.
“This is an attack on all of us!” teenager Fallon Stout bellowed over the loudspeaker in front of the Capitol on Sunday. “We will fight until the f— end!”
The court’s decision Friday gave Utah lawmakers almost immediate power to begin regulating abortion at the state level. In Utah, abortion is now banned except in certain circumstances, such as being “necessary to avert death” of the pregnant woman, or if two physicians determine the fetus has certain severe defects or brain abnormalities. An abortion can be performed if a pregnancy is caused by rape or incest, but a physician must first verify that the rape or incest has been reported to the proper authorities.
When the court’s decision came down, there was a sense of hopelessness for some.
“I just sat and cried,” said Ashley Fritz, of Ogden. “It’s really upsetting to wake up and find out that you don’t have as many rights as you did the previous day.”
Kayla Dominguez, of Sandy, felt it, too.
“I laid there [and later] I started crying,” said Dominguez, one of the speakers at Sunday’s rally. “It took a while to feel real, but it’s happening.”
That hopelessness has since turned into anger and resolve for many.
“I’m in mama bear mode,” said Mckenzie Thompson, a mother of three, including an adopted daughter. “I feel sadness for myself and protective for my kids. I don’t want my daughters to have to worry about taking care of children if they have an accident as a teenager or, god forbid, if someone hurts them in that way. It’s healthcare. It’s our bodies. They deserve these rights.”
Planned Parenthood Association of Utah already has filed a lawsuit to block the state’s new abortion law.
Meanwhile, there have been daily protests in Utah — from Salt Lake City to St. George — since the court’s landmark opinion was released. On Friday, thousands took to the Capitol to protest the reversal of 50 years of precedent on abortion rights. On Saturday, about 200 people gathered in Provo, a traditionally conservative city that is home to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints-owned Brigham Young University.
Before protesters marched through the streets of Salt Lake City on Sunday afternoon, organizer Rylee Smith was one of several women who shared their stories and experiences with abortion.
“I could barely afford to take care of myself, let alone my child. I went to Planned Parenthood and they saved my life!” Smith told the crowd. “This is the first time I have ever told my story, but this will not be the last.”
Ewanowski, whose sign began to tell her story as a teenager 17 years ago, said she was frustrated by the need to fight for women’s reproductive rights 50 years after Roe.
“Everything I’ve done in my life, I’ve been able to do because I had a choice,” said the woman who double majored in biology and gender and women’s studies at the University of Wisconsin and now works as a critical care physician assistant at the University of Utah. “It’s frustrating that it’s a medical procedure that’s being regulated by people that don’t have any understanding of it and can’t comprehend the gravity of these situations.”
But Ewanowski added: “This isn’t the end. For sure. This isn’t the end. It’s just a matter of time.”