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Women in red cloaks march on State House, advocate for reproductive freedom

The Boston Red Cloaks staged a protest on the steps of the Massachusetts State House on Sunday.
The Boston Red Cloaks staged a protest on the steps of the Massachusetts State House on Sunday.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

More than a dozen cloaked figures slowly marched toward the State House Sunday morning with a simple message: “Ruth sent us.”

With proceedings to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg underway and a bill that would ease access to abortion in Massachusetts before the Legislature, advocates rallied at the steps for abortion rights.

“We’re all mad as hell and we’re rising up to show we won’t go peacefully into this dystopian world of actual handmaids,” said Lora Venesy, who dressed as the late justice and led the group to the State House steps.

The group of about two dozen were dressed as justices, suffragettes, and the Statue of Liberty, with the majority clad in red cloaks and white bonnets, a nod to Margaret Atwood’s novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which depicts a misogynistic dystopia. A television show based on the book is set in the Boston area.

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“It’s a terrifying novel that should stay fiction,” Venesy told the roughly 40 who gathered to watch the group, who joined other “red cloak” protests around the country.

Advocates at the event decried what they said was an “imminent” threat to abortion access across the country as a Republican majority in the US Senate swiftly moves Amy Coney Barrett toward confirmation to fill Ginsburg’s seat on the court.

But although the judge’s confirmation is probably a foregone conclusion, speakers said there is more to be done in the Bay State as well, beginning with the passage of a bill that has languished in the Legislature.

“The need for the ROE Act existed in full force long before Trump became president, long before Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away, long before Amy Coney Barrett got nominated,” said state Senator Rebecca L. Rausch, a co-sponsor of the bill.

She criticized the legislators who passed the current abortion legislation in the state in the 1970s in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which established women’s legal right to abortions.

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“I don’t know about you, but I am not comfortable letting legislators from the ’70s decide for my constituents, for me, for our children, and for their children to come, whether, when, and how to parent,” she said.

“If — and every day seeming more likely when — we lose Roe V. Wade at the federal level either by outright overturning or by gutting it so extensively that it does not exist anymore functionally, it will be up to the states to figure out how to ensure reproductive freedom for every person in this nation,” Rausch said.

A group of about two dozen were dressed as justices, suffragettes, and the Statue of Liberty, with the majority clad in red cloaks and white bonnets, a nod to Margaret Atwood’s novel “The Handmaid’s Tale," which depicts a misogynistic dystopia.
A group of about two dozen were dressed as justices, suffragettes, and the Statue of Liberty, with the majority clad in red cloaks and white bonnets, a nod to Margaret Atwood’s novel “The Handmaid’s Tale," which depicts a misogynistic dystopia.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff



Lucas Phillips can be reached at lucas.phillips@globe.com.