‘We believe there is nothing to celebrate’: Independence Day rallies call for bodily autonomy

  • More than 100 residents cross the intersection of Main and Federal streets heading toward the Greenfield Common on Monday in support of abortion rights. STAFF PHOTO/SHELBY ASHLINE

  • More than 100 residents cross the intersection of Main and Federal streets heading toward the Greenfield Common on Monday in support of abortion rights. STAFF PHOTO/SHELBY ASHLINE

  • More than 100 residents marched from Greenfield Middle School and convened on the Greenfield Common on Monday in support of abortion rights. STAFF PHOTO/SHELBY ASHLINE

  • More than 100 residents marched from Greenfield Middle School and convened on the Greenfield Common on Monday in support of abortion rights. STAFF PHOTO/SHELBY ASHLINE

  • More than 100 residents marched from Greenfield Middle School down Federal Street to the Greenfield Common on Monday in support of abortion rights. STAFF PHOTO/SHELBY ASHLINE

  • Demonstrators advocate for bodily autonomy in Orange on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Demonstrators advocate for bodily autonomy in Orange on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Demonstrators advocate for bodily autonomy in Orange on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Parade participants throw candy to bodily autonomy advocates in Shelburne Falls on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Monday’s Independence Day parade passes by a bodily autonomy rally in Shelburne Falls. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Demonstrators took to the streets of Shelburne Falls prior to the village’s Independence Day parade to advocate for bodily autonomy. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • More than 100 residents marched from Greenfield Middle School and convened on the Greenfield Common on Monday in support of abortion rights. STAFF PHOTO/SHELBY ASHLINE

  • More than 100 residents cross the intersection of Main and Federal streets heading toward the Greenfield Common on Monday in support of abortion rights. STAFF PHOTO/SHELBY ASHLINE

  • More than 100 residents cross the intersection of Main and Federal streets heading toward the Greenfield Common on Monday in support of abortion rights. STAFF PHOTO/SHELBY ASHLINE

  • More than 100 residents marched from Greenfield Middle School down Federal Street to the Greenfield Common on Monday in support of abortion rights. STAFF PHOTO/SHELBY ASHLINE

  • More than 100 residents marched from Greenfield Middle School down Federal Street to the Greenfield Common on Monday in support of abortion rights. STAFF PHOTO/SHELBY ASHLINE

  • More than 100 residents marched from Greenfield Middle School down Federal Street to the Greenfield Common on Monday in support of abortion rights. STAFF PHOTO/SHELBY ASHLINE

Staff Writer
Published: 7/4/2022 5:05:29 PM
Modified: 7/4/2022 5:02:49 PM

Hundreds across Franklin County chose to celebrate Independence Day on Monday through pleas for individual independence, lining local streets while hoisting signs to advocate for bodily autonomy.

Demonstrations took place before noontime in Greenfield, Orange and Shelburne Falls in the wake of the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which recognized a constitutional right to abortion. Similar rallies were also held locally on the day of the decision.

Thirteen states, mainly in the South and Midwest, have laws on the books banning abortion in the event Roe v. Wade was overturned. Another half-dozen states have near-total bans or prohibitions after six weeks of pregnancy. In Massachusetts, however, abortion is still legal. Following the court’s decision, Gov. Charlie Baker signed an executive order enshrining protection to reproductive health care service access.

Greenfield’s demonstration, which began at 10 a.m., consisted of a march from Greenfield Middle School down Federal Street, concluding on the common.

“We display our disdain at the loss of physical autonomy for all women, non-binary and trans people that are also child-bearing, and the devastating effects this will force on our nation,” Greenfield march organizers released in a statement. The same organizers also demonstrated at Beacon Field ahead of Friday’s fireworks. “We wear the red robes and white bonnets of Margaret Atwood’s Handmaids in recognition of the servitude American women and other child-bearing people, particularly the poor and disadvantaged, have been assigned. We choose this particular event, as we believe there is nothing to celebrate in the United States this Fourth of July.”

Orange and Shelburne Falls demonstrations, which began at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. respectively, consisted of standouts downtown.

An Independence Day protest, demonstrators said, serves the purpose of calling out the United States for being selective with whom it declares independent.

“This is the day of independence and how ironic is it that our rights are being stripped from us?” said Lisa Winter, who participated in Greenfield’s march. “And it’s not going to stop here.”

“I think it’s ironic that it’s held on Independence Day,” said Erika McGee, a Greenfield resident and marcher. “It’s hypocritical, it’s misogynistic and it’s sexist for a man to say a woman can’t exercise her free will with what to do with her own body.”

Advocates deemed such oppression a longstanding issue that has marred the country’s morality for generations.

“We’ve had to examine our history to understand what’s happening now,” said Shelburne Falls resident and demonstrator Rita Jaros, who wielded a sign referencing problems reaching back to when the U.S. Constitution was signed.

Those of all ages made their voices heard.

“I feel like, through my education, I’ve really seen who America is really free for, and it’s not women, trans people or poor people,” commented Orange resident and demonstrator Jessie Wilson, who studies political science at Salem State University.

“I’m 71 and I did this already,” Athol resident Katherine Erwin, accompanied by her daughter and granddaughter in Orange, said of her activism. “It breaks my heart to have my granddaughter especially, who is 18, fight the fight.”

Those who rallied presented a variety of next steps they would like to see to combat the recent Supreme Court decision. In Greenfield, McGee suggested that if the government is able to regulate the bodies of women, then men should be comparably subject to vasectomies.

“It’s my position that life begins with ejaculation,” McGee said. “If a man doesn’t ejaculate in a woman, she can’t get pregnant.”

State Rep. Susannah Whipps, I-Athol, referenced H. 4930, “An Act Expanding Protections for Reproductive Rights,” at Orange’s rally as an important step to protecting bodily autonomy. In a statement provided by Whipps, the bill, which was published by the House as amended last Wednesday, “shields providers and their patients from out-of-state legal action,” declares reproductive and gender-affirming care a legal right, and more. This pushback, Whipps said, is a response to theocratic agendas held by those in power.

“It has to be a separation of church and state,” she said. “It’s people’s choice, but they can’t force religion on people seeking health care. We’re going backwards.”

For now, rally attendees were of the mind that their efforts would not be in vain.

“I just think it behooves us to do everything we can,” Winter said in Greenfield. “I will do everything at my disposal at this point and this is something to do.”

“I think for women who don’t have the courage to vote their own mind and ask for help,” said Orange resident and demonstrator Sally Davis, “perhaps this will give them some courage.”

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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