HELENA — On Saturday, about 400 people came to the Montana State Capitol to rally against restrictions on abortion rights.
They took part in a “March for Reproductive Rights,” one of hundreds of events across the country under the umbrella of the nationwide Women’s March. At noon, the participants marched around the Capitol, holding signs and chanting slogans like “Stand up, fight, back, reproductive rights are under attack.”
“Us as women all have to fight for our rights together,” said Ella Stoddard, a student from Helena who attended the rally.
Speakers criticized a series of laws passed by the Montana Legislature this year that tightened abortion restrictions.
“We need equality, we need equity restored into our families, our communities and our country,” said Marci McLean.
Three of those new laws – which would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, restrict access to abortion-inducing drugs and require physicians to ask women seeking an abortion if they want to listen to the fetal heartbeat – were set to go into effect Oct. 1. A judge in Billings temporarily put the laws on hold this week.
During the rally, state Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell, D-Helena, shared a story from her own life. As a young woman living in Louisiana, she chose to have an abortion and traveled to Texas to have the procedure, because there were no closer providers.
“I felt shamed,” she said. “It was a tough, tough decision I had to make – but, you know, it was my decision. We need to protect that right for all of you, for all of the young women.”
Those taking part in the rally said the fight over these policies is going to continue.
“It warms my heart, honestly, that a lot of people are fighting for women’s rights, because we need it,” Stoddard said. “It’s amazing.”
Marches were also held Saturday in Great Falls, Billings, Missoula and Whitefish.
There have also been demonstrations wanting to end all abortions. Last month, activists began their 40 Days for Life fall vigil. Demonstrators have been gathering outside businesses that support or offer abortions to pray for an end to the practice.