By Kathleen Morris
Despite the chilly weather on Feb. 11, over two hundred men, women, and children gathered downtown in Springfield at City Hall. There was no free coffee being given out, and this wasn’t a celebratory gathering for the recent Super Bowl win. These people were gathered for what they felt was a much more important reason. That afternoon, the “Our Bodies, Our Justice” rally was held.
Lindsay Sabadosa and Liz Friedman, the co-chairs of the Pioneer Valley Women’s March, organized the event in an effort to bring attention to the plight that Planned Parenthood is facing, which in turn affects the health of thousands of women nationwide. As anyone watching the news has no doubt heard, there has been talk of completely defunding Planned Parenthood. On Feb. 11 in particular, Pro-Life Ministry was holding its own National Defund Planned Parenthood Day. That made it fitting to use that day to rally in favor of the organization.
The energy of the crowd was infectious. There were various speakers such as Representative Aaron Vega, Mehlaqa Samdani (the founder and director of Critical Connections, an organization that tries to improve understanding of the Muslim faith), McKenzie Peterson (a certified rape crisis counselor and clinic escort for Planned Parenthood in Boston) among many others. The Master of Ceremonies, Holyoke City Councilor Jossie Valentin, kept the energy high throughout. Midway through, the crowd was even led to do a line dance that had been created especially for the women’s march movement. Needless to say, it was easy to stave off the cold weather.
People of all backgrounds came out to support the rally. As previously mentioned, there were women and men, young and old alike. Families came as well, their young kids carrying along their own handmade signs with slogans like “I Am A Woman, Hear Me Roar!” and “Protect My Sister’s Future!”
Despite their different backgrounds everyone had a similar reason for attending the rally. One woman named Lynn Morgan explained, “I wanted to show solidarity with all the other communities that are also fighting for our human rights.”
Another woman named Donna Miller said, “I’m here to support Planned Parenthood, to support all rights of women to choose and be respected by their government and politicians.”
A teacher from the Amherst Public School system echoed their reasoning, saying “I’m here to support Planned Parenthood because I believe that healthcare is a right for women.”
A young man who attended with his partner of four years and their friend was unsure of how to put into words his reason for attending when asked. In answer his partner simply said, “Why not?”
That in itself was a good answer, but the young man was finally able to sum up his reason in this way: “I’m little, brown, queer and pissed off basically.” That sentiment is one that was no doubt felt by many. By attending the rally, they were able to have their voices heard in opposition to legislation that they view as unfair.
When looking back on the event, Sabadosa voiced her hope that more people will do the same. She said, “My hope is that they’ll be inspired to take action.”
When expanding on that hope, she spoke of the seemingly constant bombardments of new legislation and executive orders that have been coming through since the start of this new presidency. Many people find these changes to be unfair and unsettling. By speaking out and making their voices heard, whether it be by attending rallies or calling their local congressperson, people can take action and incite change.
To find out more about the Pioneer Valley Women’s March, be sure to check out their website: www.ourbodiesourjustice.org