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Hundreds rally in Kansas City to support reproductive rights as abortion access grows 'dire'

Jodi Fortino
KCUR 89.3
Hundreds took to the Country Club Plaza on Saturday in support of reproductive justice.

A protest at Mill Creek Park was one of hundreds of Women’s Marches taking place across the country on Saturday, just days ahead of the U.S. Supreme Court’s new term.

Hundreds of protesters gathered at Mill Creek Park on Saturday calling for protections to reproductive rights, as abortion access is put in jeopardy across the country.

The rally was spearheaded by the Reale Justice Network, ACLU of Missouri, Operation Liberation and other organizations. Protesters took to the streets of Country Club Plaza, holding signs and chanting “abortion justice now.”

They were joined by hundreds of other Women's Marches taking place nationwide — including another in Kansas City, one in Independence, and even more throughout Kansas and Missouri — just days ahead of the U.S. Supreme Court's new term.

Last month, the Supreme Court allowed the country’s strictest abortion laws to take effect in Texas last month. And with a conservative supermajority on the bench, it's set to consider a case that could potentially lead to the overturning of "Roe v. Wade," the landmark ruling that established a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.

Local organizers said the stakes feel higher than ever.

“We don't have time y'all. It is dire," Justice Gatson, director of Reale Justice Network and an ACLU Missouri organizer, told the crowd. "I want you to understand that where we are right now is not good."

In 2019, Missouri enacted a law that prohibits abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy or because a fetus is diagnosed with Down syndrome. It has yet to take effect after being blocked by courts.

The state appealed to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, and a three-judge panel upheld the injunction in June. But in a rare move, the full court agreed to hear the case.

Republican lawmakers in Missouri have already announced plans to introduce more abortion restrictions modeled after the Texas law, as St. Louis Public Radio reported.

And in Kansas, voters will have the opportunity in August 2022 to decide on a state constitutional amendment that would declare there is no right to an abortion.

Jodi Fortino
KCUR 89.3
Hundreds of people poured into Mill Creek Park to hear from a lineup of speakers advocating for reproductive justice.

Maeve Lorenz, a longtime Planned Parenthood volunteer, said at Saturday's rally that she’s had two abortions with the health care provider. If Missouri's laws get any more restrictive, Lorenz said that would remove a critical “back-up plan” for her and other women.

“It's scary. It's absolutely scary,” Lorenz said. “Texas isn't that far away and Missouri is already a pretty tough state to maneuver around, and it'll probably happen sooner rather than later.”

State and local legislators urged attendees to take action to protect reproductive rights.

“We all know this will not end abortion. This will not end rape. This will only create barriers where people will do what is necessary for them and their families,” said Missouri state Rep. Emily Weber, who represents part of the Kansas City area. “I'm not gonna lie, not gonna sugarcoat, we need help.”

Weber and other speakers encouraged people to vote, and donate and volunteer time to organizations like Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the Missouri Abortion Fund, and support politicians who advocate for abortion rights.

Jodi Fortino
KCUR 89.3
Chanting "abortion rights, now," hundreds of Kansas Citians protested restrictive abortion laws taking place across the country.

Gatson said that this rally also marks the first year that Black-led organizations took the reins in providing leadership to the national Women’s March. Still, she said more needs to be done to support women of color, who are impacted most by laws that impact reproductive justice.

It was this push for diversity, in part, that drew a group of Rockhurst University students who attended Saturday’s rally together. They said that they appreciated that different issues were represented at the rally.

The students said that recent threats to abortion access make them feel like they’re “going backwards” in time.

“I'm only 19, so I haven't been in this world for a long time, but a lot of these things affect me in my daily life,” said Qu’ara Middleton. “It's just ridiculous how a 19 year old needs to fight for stuff that's been going on for 100 plus years.”

More than ever, education lies at the intersection of equity, housing, funding, and other diverse issues facing Kansas City’s students, families and teachers. As KCUR’s education reporter, I’ll break down the policies driving these issues in schools and report what’s happening in our region's classrooms. You can reach me at jodifortino@kcur.org.
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