DOWNTOWN – Tuesday at noon, activists, political leaders and concerned citizens gathered at Luther Ely Smith Square near the Gateway Arch to protest Missouri’s latest legislation on abortion.
HB126, also known as the Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act, in effect bans abortion after eight weeks, with no exceptions for rape or incest. This follows the lead of similar bills in other states, namely Georgia and Alabama.
Tuesday’s rally was hosted by a slew of Missouri organizations, including the ACLU of Missouri, the Gateway Women’s Access Fund and NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri. With cars blaring their horns as they drove past, several local leaders stood up to deliver speeches to the crowd.
The first, the Rev. Traci Blackmon, senior pastor of Christ the King United Church of Christ in Florissant, rallied the crowd with a condemnation of the bill.
“Let me be clear,” she said. “This fight is not about life. It is about control. This assault on women will not stop abortion. It will prevent safe access.”
Other speakers echoed Blackmon’s sentiments. Tishaura Jones, the St. Louis treasurer, said, “This wave of abortion bills that’s going across the country is not about saving lives, it’s about control. It’s about the patriarchy.”
Of the male senators who voted for the bill, she added, “A man who would pass a bill to destroy his own mother deserves a special place in hell.”
The speaker line-up included many diverse perspectives. Jay-Marie Hill, the transgender education and advocacy program coordinator at the ACLU of Missouri, spoke about their experience as a trans person of color. They called on the folks in attendance at the rally to “incorporate this into our everyday fight.”
They added, “Freedom doesn’t defend itself, and it’s up to us to dream and act every day. Do you all know about the world we deserve? Have you thought about it today?”
Male speakers were present as well. One was David Wraith, a NARAL board member, who addressed the crowd by saying, “There are a lot of people, many of them men, who will tell you that now is the time to be calm. If now is the time to be calm, the question that I have is, when do we get upset? When do we get angry? I say now is the time.”
Other speakers talked about their personal experiences. Kat Kissick, an area artist, told the story of her abortion, calling it “pretty boring.”
She said, “I got pregnant. I didn’t want to have kids. That’s it. That’s it. And that’s all that anybody should ever have to say about it. … All you need to know is: I had a choice.”
Throughout the event, Pam Reckamp, an area actor who led the rally, gave out Gov. Mike Parson’s office phone number, urging rally attendees to make calls urging him to veto the bill. Reckamp told The SouthSider that it was reported by some that Parsons has been keeping a tally of the number of calls that come into his office about the bill.
Hundreds attended the rally. Some, such as father-daughter pair Emil and Lorelei Samson, traveled long distances to be at the event. The Samsons drove in from Kentucky to show their support. Each held a hand-made sign: Emil’s featured coat-hangers and read “Home Abortion Kit $5,” while Lorelei’s read, “You wouldn’t try to regulate my vagina if it fired bullets.”
Emil Samson said they had made the signs “to be as shocking and offensive as possible. When you pass a law to restrict women’s freedoms, I think you need to strike back with shock.”
They weren’t the only ones carrying provocative signs. One protester, who asked to be named by only her first name, Alice, held a sign that read, “Make Vasectomies Illegal.”
When asked to elaborate on her choice of poster, she said, “Men like control. They like to legislate for us about us, and if they were legislated, they would have a whole different view of legislating for us.”
The rally ended with a series of chants held in the middle of South Fourth Street.