Hundreds of San Antonians march in 100 degree heat to protest SCOTUS abortion decision
The United States erupted in protests over the weekend as people infuriated by the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade took to the streets.
The chant, “my body, my choice” thundered through the canyons of concrete and glass of downtown San Antonio.
People of all kinds and all ages marched in the still searing early evening sunshine Friday to protest the high court’s decision to upend a 50 year precedent protecting abortion access in all 50 states.
“And that has a huge effect not just on us in our uteruses, but every decision that came after Roe versus Wade that came from our right to protect privacy,” said 27-year-old Brandi Miller. She was marching, in part, to vent her frustration with the ruling.
“But also to at least force them to look for even a second – a fraction of a second – will do more than saying nothing,” Miller said.
For 57-year-old Mary Jane Berman, the decision to protest was deeply personal.
“Not only did I have to make this terrible decision at one point in my life, but it breaks my heart that my daughter and my granddaughter cannot now legally make that decision,” Berman said.
She recounted the difficult circumstances surrounding her abortion, without shame.
“Mine was as a result of a sexual assault that was very traumatic in my early teens. And had I not been able to do that, the course of my life would have been radically different,” Berman said. “How they can take that away from us at this point in time is unconscionable and absolutely beyond reckoning to me.”
A young man with a pride flag tucked behind his ear held a large piece of white poster board. On it, the words “abortion is health care” were scrawled in black marker. His name is John Esparza. Why did he march?
“Because women's rights are human rights,” Esperza said. “And if the Supreme Court is starting with women's rights, then queer people are next.”
Esparza’s concern is well founded. In his concurring opinion of the ruling overturning Roe, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the court should also reconsider the rulings that legalized privacy in sexual relationships as well as the one that legalized same sex marriage. Esparza said it's difficult to know what to do next.
Frustration and fear were common emotions at the march.
Already, Texas bans abortions after six weeks gestation, which leaves people who don’t find out there is something terribly wrong with their pregnancies until much later – with few options.
People like this – a woman who wishes to remain anonymous because she’s afraid if people know she had a late term abortion, she will lose her career.
“At my 20 week anatomy scan, I found out that my child had a condition called Trisomy 13,” she said.
Trisomy 13 is a genetic defect that occurs in about one in 5,000 to 12,000 live births, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders. Miscarriage is common, but if a fetus with Trisomy 13 survives the pregnancy, 90 percent of them die in the first year. And while they live, they experience devastating and often excruciating complications. In this case, the baby’s prognosis was particularly grim.
“She had no eyes. Her insides were growing outside of her body,” she said. “Her heart. One of the chambers was too small. The only reason why it was beating is because my body was forcing it to beat.”
The hardest part to bear was the idea that her child would suffer – and was perhaps already suffering. She also already had a child. What would this experience do to them? She and her partner – with the support of her mother, who stood close by like a sentinel as her daughter tearfully recounted her story – decided to terminate.
Late term abortion is illegal in Texas.
“So we chose to go to a different state,” she said. “And it was the worst experience. But it was right.”
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, abortions at or after 21 weeks only represent about 1% of all abortions in the US. They almost always occur because the fetus has a condition that is – to use a doctor’s phrase – incompatible with life, threatens the life of the parent, or both.
Late-term abortions are also expensive, costing well over $1,000 – excluding the cost of travel and lost wages.
She said she is extremely lucky to have had the resources to have had this procedure. Her parents helped, financially, emotionally and in every other way, and her mom wants the people she’s now sure would shun both her and her daughter if they knew, to understand some things about late-term abortion.
“It's the most devastating, life altering decision to realize that, you know, the family that was planned and orchestrated, that everything was set in motion, has now been brought to a halt,” she said.
There’s this deep well of grief, now, for this family. And there’s nowhere to turn in Texas for emotional support. Her doctor won’t even talk to her about it. That she would be judged harshly by anyone for a medical decision makes her angry.
“This is health care. This is for my mental health, my family's mental health, my child's health. That she didn't suffer,” she said. “That's none of your damn business. What I choose to do to protect myself and my family.”
So mom and daughter, arms linked, marched.
Two of the thousands of Texans who took to the streets over the weekend. Two of the thousands of Texans who plan to keep fighting.