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 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 July 4. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Demonstrators advocate for bodily autonomy in Orange on July 4.

  • Demonstrators advocate for bodily autonomy in Orange on July 4, 2022. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Parade participants throw candy to body autonomy advocates in Shelburne Falls on July 4,  STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Monday’s Independence Day parade passes by a body 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 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: 7/5/2022 9:36:53 AM
Modified: 7/5/2022 9:40:07 AM

Hundreds across the county chose to celebrate Independence Day through pleas for individual independence this Fourth of July, lining local streets to advocate for bodily autonomy.

Greenfield, Orange and Shelburne Falls all saw demonstrations take place before noontime in wake of the Supreme Court’s overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision, which recognized a constitutional right to abortion, on June 24.

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

Rally crowds were diverse in age, with those of all ages making 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,” said 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.”

State Rep. Susannah Whipps (I-Athol) referenced House Bill 4930 at Orange’s rally as an important step to protect body 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, though, ralley attendees were of the mind that their efforts would not be in vain.

“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.”

Greenfield’s demonstration, which began at 10 a.m., consisted of a march down Federal Street to the Town Common from Greenfield Middle School.

“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. “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.”

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.”

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

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 United States Constitution was signed.

Those who rallied presented a variety of next steps they would like to see to combat the recent Supreme Court decision. 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.”

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


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