Four years ago, a group of women upset over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court began demonstrating in Boston wearing the scarlet cloaks and white bonnets of “The Handmaid’s Tale” to show their support for abortion rights.
On Saturday, they marched to the State House to protest the Supreme Court draft decision leaked last week that would overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.
The demonstration, organized by the group Boston Red Cloaks, opened with five minutes of silence before Carol Deanow, 79, walked to the microphone and described the illegal abortion she had in 1965, eight years before Roe was decided.
“I lived to tell the tale and to fight for abortion rights ever since,” said Deanow, a Brookline resident who belongs to The Bad Old Days Posse, a group of activists who share stories from the pre-Roe era. “I’m still alive and I’m still fighting. What we’re facing now in this country is catastrophic.”
The draft opinion, published by Politico on Monday night and authenticated Tuesday by Chief Justice John Roberts, triggered an outpouring of reaction and demonstrations for and against the ruling, which hasn’t been finalized.
More than 100 people, mostly women and girls, participated in Saturday’s demonstration. They filled the staircase below the State House and concluded the speaking program by singing Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take it.” Somerville City Councilor Kristen Strezo, a former member of a feminist punk band, led the song.
Earlier in the demonstration, Strezo said she has spent decades advocating for abortion rights.
“How am I still fighting for this?” she asked.
About half of US states are expected to ban abortion if Roe falls, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion-rights think tank.
Massachusetts, however, won’t be among them.
In 2020, the state passed the ROE Act over Republican Governor Charlie Baker’s veto, codifying and expanding the right to abortion in Massachusetts. Under state law, abortion is legal through 24 weeks of pregnancy, as well as after that threshold, in cases with a fatal fetal anomaly or to preserve the health of a pregnant person. The ROE Act also allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to seek abortions without parental consent.
State Representative Tram Nguyen, an Andover Democrat, told the crowd at the Saturday rally that Massachusetts must prepare to help people who will travel here for abortions if Roe is overturned.
“Pregnancy is an extremely personal decision and that decision shouldn’t be made by politicians, myself included. That is why we support choice,” said Nguyen. Her legislative seat was previously held by Jim Lyons, chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party and an abortion rights opponent.
Nguyen urged the crowd to support legislation proposed by state Representative Lindsay N. Sabadosa of Northampton that would allow health centers at the state’s public colleges and universities to offer medical abortions.
“Here in Massachusetts we can do so much more to help pregnant people,” she said.
Keiko Zoll, who spoke on behalf of the group, March Like a Mother For Black Lives, said if the draft opinion becomes law it could threaten privacy rights, marriages among same-sex and interracial couples, and access to contraception.
“Roe v. Wade isn’t just about abortions. The GOP seeks to criminalize a legitimate medical procedure and punish women in the process,” said Zoll, a Swampscott resident. “They refuse to enable our nation to move beyond its white, Euro-centric, heteronormative Christian patriarchal origins to become the America we all deserve. Overturning Roe v. Wade is not pro-life as they’d like us to believe.”
Among the demonstrators were three middle-school girls from Maine. Amiah Sosa, 13, held sign that read, “YOU’RE PRO-LIFE UNTIL THE BABY IS...POOR, TRANSGENDER, BLACK, GAY, SICK, MEXICAN, DISABLED.” Sosa’s mother, Kayla Carpenter, said she drove her daughter and her two friends to the demonstration.
“I just hope that they know that they have a voice,” Carpenter said in an interview.
The demonstration concluded with members of Boston Red Cloaks marching through Boston Common to the Brewer Fountain, holding a banner and signs hung from wire hangers, which signify the dangerous abortions conducted years back by desperate woman using them.
Jessie Steigerwald, the group’s founder, said Saturday’s participants ranged in age from 19 to 73, a sign of how abortion rights affects people at all stages of life.
“It’s a multi-generational issue that’s not settled,” she said.
The youngest, Mataya Philbrick, 19, said it’s hard to imagine Roe being overturned.
“I’ve grown up with this being a right to me,” said Philbrick, a student at Harvard University.
Mary and Mark Lausier of Bangor, Maine, came across the demonstration while walking through Boston Common.
Mary Lausier said she worries that the end of Roe would set off a wave of challenges to rights protecting vulnerable groups, including the LGBTQ community.
“If they’re starting with this, where else is this going to go in terms of people who are marginalized?” she asked. “It’s a very complicated situation.”