A small group of demonstrators gathered in Harvard Square Saturday afternoon to protest a controversial law that took effect in Texas on Wednesday, effectively banning nearly all abortions.
The group handed out flyers to passersby shortly after 4 p.m. and waved signs with the message “Forced Motherhood Is Female Enslavement! Abortions On Demand and Without Apology!” Some protesters wore Harvard University apparel while others were dressed in T-shirts bearing slogans supporting access to abortions, according to photos taken by participants.
The demonstration, organized by the local chapter of the Revolutionary Communist Party and endorsed by activist organization Refuse Fascism New England, came together swiftly over the past few days, according to Stan Lawrence, one of the event’s lead organizers.
“As soon as the word went out about what had happened in Texas, I and others started thinking about how to respond,” said Lawrence, 73, in an interview. “It’s outrageous that overnight, for 6 million women, the door’s been slammed on their right to safe and legal abortion, and there needs to be a response that’s commensurate to that.”
The Texas law prohibits abortions after a heartbeat can be detected in an embryo, usually about six weeks after conception, before many women know they are pregnant. Drafted by the Texas Legislature, the law took effect Sep. 1, after the US Supreme Court announced that it would not block the ban.
The law is the most restrictive abortion limitation in the country, and women’s rights advocates say it directly opposes the high court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which protects the right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, about 22 weeks into pregnancy.
Maria Sanchez, a Cambridge resident and member of the Communist party, said she came to the demonstration to let state legislators know that women are prepared to “stand up and speak out and be in the streets to stop this law” from taking root and spreading.
“It’s not just about one state. . . . It’s a step toward overturning Roe v. Wade,” Sanchez, 55, said in an interview.
“Already, other states are watching closely what happens to this law in Texas. This law will spread across the country if it’s allowed to stand, and it will slam women backwards into a horrific Handmaid’s Tale scenario,” she said, referring to the Margaret Atwood novel and streaming television series about a dystopian future in which fertile women are treated as breeding animals.
Lawrence, the co-organizer, said he’s advocated for women’s reproductive rights since the 1960s, when abortion was still illegal nationwide. In 1988, he was arrested outside an abortion clinic in Flushing, N.Y., while “defending the clinic from anti-abortionists trying to shut it down,” he said, and he maintains that women’s rights are not just a women’s issue.
“I don’t think that unless women have control over their bodies that we can have any hope of a just society,” he said, “and every person of consciousness — woman or man — needs to take a stand in this.”