‘War has been declared’: Hundreds of Parkites rally for abortion rights

The Bans Off Our Beehive rally on Saturday was part of a nationwide demonstration

More than 200 people gathered in City Park for the Bans Off Our Beehive rally on Saturday. The demonstration was part of a nationwide movement hoping to protect abortion rights after a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion suggested Roe v. Wade could be overturned.
Toria Barnhart/Park Record

More than 200 people assembled in City Park on Saturday as part of a nationwide movement to protect abortion rights.

Park City was one of three locations in the state where the Bans Off Our Beehive rally, organized by the Planned Parenthood Action Council of Utah, was held. The national protest, Bans Off Our Bodies, was spurred after a draft opinion from the Supreme Court suggesting Roe v. Wade could be overturned was leaked earlier this month.

Locally, speakers advocated for improved access to reproductive health and sex education as hundreds gathered in support of the 1973 court decision, which protects the ability to have an abortion without excessive government restriction.

“We cannot allow a world where our daughters have fewer rights than our mothers and grandmothers,” Meredith Reed, one of the event coordinators, told the gathering.

Park City Mayor Nann Worel said she felt frustrated, like most of the audience, that there is nothing she can do to sway the Supreme Court decision.

Addressing the crowd, Worel said she’s not speaking on behalf of the municipal government but as a woman who’s deeply offended by the prospect of overturning the Roe v. Wade decision, which would limit reproductive rights in the United States. Utah is also one of 13 states with a trigger law that would ban elective abortions and limit the procedure under certain circumstances if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

As a former executive director of the People’s Health Clinic, Worel said she’s witnessed the impacts of unplanned pregnancies. She told the crowd how she wept over calls to the state Child Protective Services to report pregnancies in girls as young as 13.

Worel said she understands Park City is divided on the issue, as is the rest of the nation, but the community must put aside its differences to cast a safety net and come together to protect women and children. She encouraged residents to “get off the sidelines” and act.

The mayor advocated for improving health education to help women learn how their bodies work. Specifically, Worel discussed removing barriers like cost, transportation or hours of services to increase access to health care and said the information needs to be available in a variety of languages.

Worel also spoke to the men in the audience and said they have a duty to teach their sons about safe sex, drawing loud applause from the crowd.

“You aren’t off the hook here,” Worel said. “Birth control is not the sole responsibility of women.”

Members of the Park City Teen Council, a program that trains youth to be peer educators, also highlighted their role in providing resources and education to local teens. Carly McAleer, a senior at Park City High School, said the initiative is necessary because the state doesn’t do enough to teach about sex or reproductive health.

McAleer said if the Roe v. Wade decision is reversed, the country could go back decades in terms of education and that it would tell young people their bodies aren’t their own because the government has control. Only allowing abortions in cases of rape or incest sends a message that a person must be violated to have access to their rights, according to McAleer.

“A fundamental right for all should be learning about their bodies and having the autonomy to make decisions concerning their health and sexual freedom,” McAleer said. “When we decide that abortion rights are a women’s-only issue, we then make abortion and reproductive freedom a trans-exclusive issue where we don’t recognize our queer friends and family. We don’t recognize the rights to their bodies and their ability to make decisions about what they can do and who they can be with.”

Utah Sen. Kathleen Riebe, D-Cottonwood Heights, echoed a similar message.

She said that as a woman, she doesn’t exist solely to be a “baby vessel.” Riebe continued that decisions regarding reproductive health are personal and the debate to overturn Roe v. Wade should be taken personally.

Under Utah’s trigger law, Riebe said, a doctor could be charged with a second-degree felony for performing an abortion while an abusive partner who causes a miscarriage could be charged with a class A or class B misdemeanor, depending on if they knew the victim was pregnant, under state law.

“We don’t protect our women, we don’t protect our kids,” she said. “My life, my liberty, shouldn’t be decided by someone else.”

Park City Councilor Becca Gerber took the stage in honor of her mother and mother-in-law, who both underwent abortion procedures in the 1970s. She said they would be enraged that their granddaughter might not have the same access to reproductive health care nearly 50 years later. As a parent, she said, she fears children today will inherit an unsafe, cruel world and that the future generation “deserves more choice.”

As a white, cisgender woman, Gerber said it’s her responsibility to speak on behalf of Black, Indigenous and people of color who do not have the same privileges she does.

“We cannot go backward. This cannot be reality,” she said.

Summit County Councilor Malena Stevens also addressed the crowd. Like Worel, she advocated for enhancing sex education in the state, which she said was inadequate. As a result, she said women, who bear the weight of having children, are at a disadvantage.

Stevens also highlighted her experience as a victim advocate. She said there’s a higher likelihood of abuse when children are unwanted. If Roe v. Wade is reversed, Stevens said, there will be negative implications for vulnerable populations in Utah who cannot afford to travel out of state for an abortion or who may struggle to provide for their kids.

If the court decision is overturned, Stevens said, the community will need to step up to support families and their children.

“We are only as strong as the most vulnerable person among us,” she said. “It will take a village.”

Dr. Tania Bodnar, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Park City, said providing access to safe abortions is essential health care, which she said is a right, not a privilege. If Roe v. Wade is reversed, Bodnar said abortions will still happen, but they will become illegal and unsafe.

When, not if, things go wrong, she said, women will not seek the proper care. Bodnar said overturning the decision will “chain women to their homes and send them to the grave.” She criticized the men who are trying to change the law and said they are threatened by women with power and choice.

“I will not abandon you. I will fight for you. I will help you,” Bodnar told the crowd. “These men have no idea what they’re up against. I’m with you every damn step of the way.”

Sadie Ortiz, a Park City High School graduate and University of Utah student, said she’s often characterized as an “angry woman” but she won’t “swallow her anger” when it comes to fighting for abortion rights. Now is the time to be loud, Ortiz said, because white men are prioritizing their beliefs when every individual should have the right to choose for themself.

“War has been declared on our bodies time and time again,” she said. “It is my body, and it is my choice.”

Annabel Sheinberg, the vice president of external affairs with the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, said although the Supreme Court leak confirmed the deepest fears of some, recent polling indicates that Utahns support abortion access.

Approximately 55% of people responded that abortion should be legal in most cases, 76% don’t support further restrictions and 86% believe politicians shouldn’t make decisions about pregnant people’s health care, according to Sheinberg.

“We are the majority,” she said. “We have a plan; we are not backing down. This is long from over.”

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