'Every woman deserves the choice': Abortion rights advocates rally in Baltimore to protest new laws

Abortion rights advocates and Baltimore residents gathered outside the War Memorial building Tuesday to rally against new laws restricting access to abortion across the country.

As the crowd of about 150 people gathered to listen to speakers from various organizations, their rallying cry stayed constant throughout.

“Stop the bans!”

The rally comes days after Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed off on the nation’s most restrictive abortion law, which outlaws nearly all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest, allowing for the procedure only if the mother’s life is in serious jeopardy.

The rally was one of several held throughout the Maryland and across the country as national organizers say more than 400 events were planned in all 50 states.

At the rally, several speakers called abortion a human right that should be viewed as part of the continuum of health care for women.

“No woman should be subject to criminal investigation after seeking medical care to terminate a pregnancy or address her health when suffering a miscarriage,” said Kimberly Haven with NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland.

“No woman should be forced to leave her own state to seek pregnancy-related health care,” she continued. “No woman should be forced to carry a pregnancy to term against her will.”

The rally coincided with a new lawsuit filed against the federal government by nearly two dozen states, including Maryland, to stop a new rule that lets health care clinicians decline to provide abortions and other services that conflict with their moral or religious beliefs.

Issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, the rule is scheduled to take effect in July and also requires hospitals, universities, clinics and other entities that receive federal funding to formally comply with 25 laws protecting religious and conscience rights.

At the Baltimore rally, 44-year-old Rashida Simmons spoke about how being able to get an abortion at the age of 17 in 1993 enabled her to pursue a career and start a family when she was ready more than a decade later.

“Every woman deserves the choice, not 25 white men in Alabama,” Simmons said.

Raegan McDonald-Mosley, the chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood of Maryland, said abortion should be understood to be “part of the full scope of care” for women and that new state laws restricting access don’t serve that purpose.

“This is clearly not about reasonable restrictions on abortion,” McDonald-Mosley said.

Across the lawn in front of the War Memorial building, people held signs deriding the new laws and the mostly Republican legislators supporting them.

Speakers lauded the state’s efforts to preserve abortion rights past federal law as legal abortion was codified through a referendum in 1992.

Odette Ramos, co-chairwoman of Baltimore Women United and a Democratic candidate for City Council, warned that making abortion a state-by-state issue could push the burden on other states where abortion is legal.

“We are safe here, but our sisters in other states are not,” she said. “They will be coming to Maryland for care.”

The rally also looked to cast a wide net beyond just advocating for abortion rights, with speakers also talking about how the issues affect minorities and the incarcerated.

“Where are the bans on discrimination, racism and on social inequity?” said Yinka Bode-George, an environmental health advocate with Not Without Black Women.

“In this world we live in, and the multitude of social injustices people experience every day, identifying as pro-life is rooted in privilege,” she added. “Let’s face it, you’re not pro-life. You’re pro-oppression, marginalization and white supremacy.”

pdavis@baltsun.com

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