GV Campus Rally Sums Up Statewide Abortion Rights Battle – Grand Valley Lanthorn

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In the months since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the nation’s abortion rights first established nearly half a century ago, activist efforts have sought to energize voters and build support both for and against maintaining abortion rights. .

As months-long legal battles continue and political fervor escalates, the fallout from the court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization which reversed its Roe v. Wade of 1973 transformed the nation into an ideological battlefield and each state into a new front. .

In Michigan, the ensuing legal battles, the executive branch’s rejection of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s decision and a new ballot initiative that will ask voters whether to codify the right to abortion in the Michigan constitution. state have all turned the state into a quagmire of legal ambiguity and activism.

This is evident at Grand Valley State University, where the campus has become a microcosm for the ongoing struggle across the state and nation over abortion access in the shadow of Roe’s demise.

Bringing together a number of GVSU students and local and state officials, campus activists held a rally at the university’s Cook Carillon Tower on September 18 to urge supporters to continue the fight to preserve abortion rights in the state.

Organized by Nancy Hoogwerf, a sophomore at GVSU and campus organizer for Democratic congressional candidate Hillary Scholten, the rally served to build support and encourage people to get involved in what she believed to be a movement necessary.

“Just tonight, we’ve built a community of advocates and leaders here on campus who want to come out and speak out on the issues that matter most to them,” Hoogwerf said. “And tonight is reproductive freedom.”

The fight, Hoogwerf said, was personal to her in a way that has been echoed in recent months by women who have rallied from Capitol Hill to the streets of Los Angeles.

“For me, I fight for reproductive freedom because the idea of ​​having to put my career or my studies on hold because I had no choice horrifies me,” Hoogwerf said.

Other GVSU students like Syd Sturgis felt compelled to join the rally out of similar feelings of urgency towards the cause.

“I thought it would be good to defend,” Sturgis said. “I’ve never really been involved in a lot of activism myself, but I would love to, and I thought it would be a good opportunity.”

Alongside eager students, rally attendees also heard from local officials like State Rep. Carol Glanville, D-Walker, running for re-election in Michigan’s New 84.e District.

“It’s so important because we see again today and on our ballot this fall the will of the people,” Glanville said. “Nearly one million Michiganders have signed the Michigan Reproductive Equity and Freedom Proposal and we must hold that line through the fall.”

The fight has proven to be a winning streak for abortion rights supporters, with vote showing growing support among Americans following the Supreme Court’s decision in late June.

Richard Williamson, campaign manager for current State Representative and state Senate candidate David LaGrand, D-Grand Rapids, is one such dynamic political participant.

Williamson said when he began his work for the upcoming election, he entered the campaign trail with other issues on his mind.

“When we came into this election, I was here for education issues,” Williamson said.

However, following the Supreme Court’s decision in the Dobbs case, Williamson told the Lanthorn that her focus shifted to the issue of restoring abortion rights for people in her state.

“It’s a terrifying prospect that we live in a world where women are second-class citizens,” Williamson said. “The reason I’m passionate about working with David and so excited about it is because that’s what he cares about. He doesn’t want anyone to be a second-class citizen. .

The participation of young voters like those in GVSU, Williamson said, will play a key role in efforts to preserve abortion rights in Michigan.

“It’s crucial,” Williamson said. “Significantly and in the long term, we can only win if we have active young people in politics.”

With GVSU’s longstanding reputation as a local flashpoint in the abortion rights debate, such a gathering has drawn controversy from others in the community.

Shortly after the rally began, a small group of counter-protesters descended on the rally to combat a narrative they believed was harmful to the unborn child.

Attempting to drown out speakers at the rally, counter-protesters confronted those present with chants and phrases advocating a belief in the protection of unborn fetuses.

The efforts of rally attendees and counter-protesters came against the backdrop of the recent certification of a statewide ballot proposal that would dramatically alter the future of abortion in Michigan.

If passed, Proposition 3, known as the Reproductive Rights Initiative, would amend the state constitution to codify the right to access abortion care.

The wording of the proposal that the State Supreme Court order the Michigan Board of Solicitors to be placed on the ballot allows the state to continue to regulate abortion after fetal viability. This period, after which a fetus could survive independently outside the womb, has no legal time limit but is often considered in popular consensus and scientific debate occur approximately 24 weeks after the onset of pregnancy.

Courtesy / Supreme Court of Michigan

Fearing that the caveat in the wording of the proposal would open up the continued possibilities of late-term abortions, GVSU student Archie Smith IV expressed concern about what the amendment would allow if passed.

“Even though (the proposal) says ‘post-viability,’ it also indicates that health endangerment would allow abortionists to abort after viability, including for mental health,” Smith said. “No pro-choice abortionist is going to deny someone an abortion because their reason isn’t good enough.”

Despite efforts to push back on statewide calls to uphold abortion rights, those who oppose it face an uphill battle in their bid to keep Proposition 3 from being enshrined. in the state constitution.

Vote of the Lansing-based EPIC-MRA conducted the week before the rally suggested that support for the constitutional amendment more than doubled opposition to it, with 56% of those polled saying they favored the amendment against 23% against.

While acknowledging the virtually insurmountable stalemate in their efforts that would materialize if Proposition 3 passes, anti-abortion activists like GVSU President Sarah McNamara’s Protect Life have said they intend to keep pushing back.

“No matter what happens on November 8, or any other time something like this might happen again, we will never stop standing up for the unborn child,” McNamara said. “They are worth standing up for and that is ultimately why we are here today.”

As rally attendees transitioned around the tower in an effort to outshine counter-protesters, the scene became a representation of the outsized support for abortion rights seen across Michigan.

Reflecting the larger state of play, the scene made it clear that while the national abortion right can be settled for the foreseeable future, the fight against abortion in Michigan remains anything but.

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