TOMS RIVER – Despite stormy weather, more than 100 people gathered on Monday to cry out against the Supreme Court’s overturning of the nearly fifty-year-old Roe v. Wade decision.
Lynda Fote, president of the Ocean County Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), organized the event. Participants initially gathered in the Ocean County Library’s Mancini Hall for an informational session.
“I want us to just have a minute of silence for the women who lost their lives before Roe v. Wade,” began Fote. “Either because they had an abortion that was illegal and didn’t go well. Or, because they were forced to carry a pregnancy that their bodies could not sustain.”
Fote shared personal details concerning her place in life throughout the history of women’s reproductive rights in the country. She finished high school in 1964 and graduated college in 1968.
“Roe v. Wade was not the law of the land until 1973,” Fote said. “This meant I spent most of my young adult years without access to a safe and legal abortion – and also without much access to birth control, particularly as a young woman who had very little money.”
Fote said she was lucky enough to never need to make that decision. However, she felt that Roe v. Wade changed her life because it told her that she counted and had value. It made her feel like she was a person who was capable of making grown-up decisions about what to do about her own healthcare.
As Fote looked out at the mixed audience of all ages and sexes, she implored everyone to use their outrage by becoming involved. She said feminism is nothing more than the radical notion that women are people.
Toms River resident Christine Kephart, 53, was one of the people who came out to protest the Supreme Court’s recent decision. She offered what she felt was one of the first steps people should use to keep women’s rights as human rights or basic civil rights.
“The thing I focus on is voter registration,” said Kephart. “Activism starts locally, and I try to show up, which also lets other people showing up know they’re not alone.
“Silence creates the real gap,” Kephart continued. “When Trump ran the first time, I had so many friends who said not to talk about it in certain crowds…We can’t be afraid to talk about things like this out loud.”
During Fote’s presentation, she emphasized the importance of voting for representatives who would act as proponents of women’s rights. Local democratic club leaders introduced themselves to the group.
The torrential downpour let up, and Fote directed attendees to bring their planned protest to Water Street in front of Huddy Park.
Women garbed in costumes made famous by “A Handmaid’s Tale” stood at the curb with protest signs. Others carried signs embracing what they saw as the wisdom of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The most common messages were ones that said, “My Body, My Choice.” One school-aged young man held a sign saying laws should stay away from his girlfriend’s body.
For the most part, cars passed by and blared horns in support of the protesters. A great many drivers gave the group a thumbs up – although at least one shot up his middle finger instead.
Many proponents of the Supreme Court’s recent decision consider it just a first step in the pro-life movement. They say the decision now goes to individual states, where elected officials will pass women’s reproductive rights legislation.