'This is a dark day in our history': Abortion rights supporters in West Palm gather in grief

·4 min read

WEST PALM BEACH — It feels like a loved one has died, said Francine Sachs, president of the Emergency Medical Assistance. Like a loved one who’s been sick for a long time. She knew it was coming, but the pain is still awful.

The people crowded around her nodded, fanning themselves with signs that read “Bans Off Our Bodies,” and "Women ≠ Property." Congresswoman Lois Frankel took Sachs' place in the center of the circle and squinted into the crowd. She held a megaphone to her mouth.

“The sun is bright, but this is a dark day in our history,” she said.

A gathering of about 80 women and men, some with tattoos and pink dyed hair and others with gardening hats and grandchildren, met on the Great Lawn at Clematis Street and Flagler Drive Friday to grieve the overturning of the landmark case that, for nearly 50 years, ensured a constitutional right to abortion.

Frankel spoke about the days before Roe v. Wade, like when she found a friend bleeding to death at the hands of a botched abortion she'd done herself. The horror stories are endless, she said, and they’re about to multiply across the country.

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Countless will lose access to a legal abortion, she promised, pointing to the 13 states with "trigger" laws poised to ban them immediately. Who will be disproportionately affected? she asked.

One woman screamed back: "Women!"

Frankel laughed. Actually, the West Palm Beach Democrat said, it's low income women and women of color affected most by the change.

Those in attendance at Friday’s rally were encouraged to channel their outrage into action. Vote, Frankel said, march, donate to advocacy groups, and “keep fighting.”

“Be relentless every day,” she said.

People yell to let out their emotions during a rally protesting the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in West Palm Beach, Florida on June 24, 2022.
People yell to let out their emotions during a rally protesting the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in West Palm Beach, Florida on June 24, 2022.

'Here we go again'

When Skye Lenkersdorf, 21, woke up Friday morning, she saw the paragraphs of angry text messages from her mother before she heard the news.

She prodded her boyfriend, still asleep beside her.

“They reversed Roe v. Wade,” she said.

He cursed, and she buried her head in his chest. She’d read that this was coming but hadn’t truly believed it.

By evening, Lenkersdorf and her mother had gathered homemade pins with pro-choice slogans into Tupperware and hauled them from their car to the lawn on Clematis Street.

“Here we go again, right?” her mother said.

Signage at a protest at Old School Square following the US Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade reversal in downtown Delray Beach, Fla., on Friday, June 24, 2022.
Signage at a protest at Old School Square following the US Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade reversal in downtown Delray Beach, Fla., on Friday, June 24, 2022.

One huge primal scream

Occasionally, passing hecklers shouted over the speakers. A woman who wouldn’t stop to give her name sang: “Oh, happy day,” over and over again. But none of them was as loud as the rally-goers themselves, who shouted and cheered on the speakers in response each time.

One attendee, a young woman, even walked to center of the circle and led the group in one tremendous primal scream. It was one of rage and sorrow at what had been lost that day, but also one of determination.

Two young women, 18-year-old Tatiana Noel and 19-year-old Claudia Fernandez, screamed along from their place of shade beneath a tree. Fernandez and her family moved from Cuba to the U.S. in 2010, she said once the lawn had quieted again.

“I remember thinking that by 2020, we’d have flying cars, and everyone’s going to love each other,” Fernandez said. “But it’s 2022, and here we are. Literally taking women’s rights away.”

“Ridiculous” doesn’t even begin to describe it, she said. This isn’t how she or Noel planned to spend their summer semester off from college.

Rose Glickstein of Delray Beach exchanges words and hand gestures with a truck carrying Trump signage during a Roe v. Wade protest Friday at Old School Square in downtown Delray Beach.
Rose Glickstein of Delray Beach exchanges words and hand gestures with a truck carrying Trump signage during a Roe v. Wade protest Friday at Old School Square in downtown Delray Beach.

Meilyn Sanchez, 30, was born in Costa Rica and moved to the United States three years ago. She sat alone at the rally, disappointed in the lack of Spanish speakers there.

“People think Latina girls come to America to have a lot of kids,” she said, pausing to get the pronunciation of each word just right. She shook her head. “We have a lot of kids because we don’t know nothing about the system. We have no access to health care.”

Teenage girls milled around her. They peered over one another’s shoulders for a better look at whoever spoke in the center, and Shirley Herman, an 80-year-old volunteer with the Democratic Women’s Club of Palm Beach County, pushed pro-choice signs into their hands.

“One of you has to take this,” she said, all no-nonsense. One giggled and took it.

Herman, like Frankel, remembers a time before Roe v. Wade. She remembers women splayed across kitchen tables, bleeding and without anesthesia. Most survived, she said, but not all.

“It shouldn’t have to be that way,” Herman said. “It should be legal. It should be health care.”

Hannah Phillips is a criminal justice reporter at The Palm Beach Post. You can reach her at hphillips@pbpost.com.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Palm Beach County abortion rights protesters grieve Roe vs Wade