GALESBURG — Approximately 200 people gathered Saturday afternoon In front of the Knox County Courthouse to protest the June 24 Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade and declared that the Constitution does not confer a right to an abortion.
As a result of the decision, the legality of abortion in the United States is left to individual states to decide, with many already making abortion illegal.
The crowd was in part, a sea of signs, and was made up of women and men of all ages. Some spoke about why they were there.
“We were talking about this 50 years ago,” explained Sharon Gilbert of Galesburg, “and we are doing it again.”
“It’s like the vote being taken away after 50 years. Our rights are being eroded away. I’m fed up.”
“It was so important,” remembered the 77-year-old of the fight for the 1973 Supreme Court ruling, “to women my age and younger. We knew what was happening.”
“I think now someone needs to wake up congress and (the right to abortion) should be codified into law. Roe v. Wade was taken for granted and it should have been codified a long time ago.”
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Amanda Cleland of Galesburg, holding her 1-year-old daughter, said what is happening is “scary.”
“I’m thankful I live in Illinois but who knows how long it will stay legal here?" Cleland said. "It’s scary that six conservative judges, five of whom are men and one who is a religious fundamentalist woman, can throw out 50 years of precedent. I can’t sit back and do nothing.”
Sponsored by PFLAG, the Galesburg Chapter of the NAACP, and United Against Hate, the rally featured six official speakers, with many others taking the time to opportunity to use the microphone.
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A recurring theme was politics, and the strong urging to vote. Not just in national elections, but small and local ones as well, and to support those candidates who support not just women’s rights and the right to abortion, but LGBTQ+ rights, Black rights, and of the rights of everyone.
Ashley German, executive director of Family Planning Service of Western Illinois, told the history of the organization and its purpose. She explained how for 46-year-old organization does not provide abortions, but does provide “all option counseling” so a pregnant woman can “make the decision for herself” for whatever option she chooses.
“Women’s rights are civil rights,” declared Pam Davidson, Knox County Democratic chairperson.
She encouraged people to vote, and a table to register to vote was there on the courthouse lawn.
“We are going to fight back at the ballot box. No one has a right to say about mine or your body.”
Galesburg Mayor Peter Schwartzman spoke briefly, but firmly.
“No man should dictate how a woman’s body should be treated. Period. Not enough men are saying it.”
He also spoke of the need for more women to have a role in government, pointing out the disproportionate number of men in all levels in the United States, and declared himself an ally not just in women’s rights, but of the rights of LGBTQ+ people, for Black rights, and the rights of the environment.
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Knox County State’s Attorney Jeremy Karlin also declared he will “seek justice for all members of our community.”
Rev. Dr. Monica Corsaro spoke of frustration and anger with those she feels twist theology into hate, stating “we love Jesus but don’t hate women.”
Emotions were high and evident among those who spoke either to the crowd or The Register-Mail. Tianna Cervantez’ had not planned on speaking, but finally took a microphone. Her words gained some of the loudest applause of the afternoon.
“Abortion is healthcare. Full stop. Our rights are not debatable. Women’s rights, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ+ rights… We should have been pissed (all along.)”
“You need to vote. You need to knock on doors. Put your feet on the ground. Have those conversations with family members who ‘agree to disagree’ that you cannot disagree about human rights. It’s not coffee vs. tea. This is human rights.”
“Run for elected office. Advocate for people whose lives don't look like yours.”
Forcefully she said it again, “you cannot disagree about human rights.”
This article originally appeared on Galesburg Register-Mail: Abortion: Hundreds rally in Galesburg IL against Roe v. Wade ruling