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"We Will Not Go Back": Grand Rapidians Protest Against SCOTUS's Decision to Overturn Roe v. Wade

Over the weekend, hundreds gathered in Grand Rapids to protest against the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade
Protestors carrying signs and flags while marching down Monroe Avenue

Protestors carrying signs and flags while marching down Monroe Avenue /PPWIII

Congressional candidate Hillary Scholten speaking at a rally at Wilcox Park in Grand Rapids

Congressional candidate Hillary Scholten speaking at a rally at Wilcox Park in Grand Rapids /PPWIII

In January of 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decided that a woman's right to choose whether or not to have an abortion was protected by the U.S. Constitution -- as was her right to privacy regarding that decision. This case, known as Roe v. Wade, became a landmark court case and, according to the National Women's Law Center, its resolution became the basis for other major legal proceedings dealing with the right to privacy (such as Obergefell v. Hodges). Then, on June 24, 2022, SCOTUS announced that it had decided to overturn Roe v. Wade in a 5-4 vote. In the wake of that announcement, fifty years of precedent came to an end. For the "pro-life" crowd, it was considered to be a resounding victory and was met with celebration, laughter, and joy. For the "pro-choice" crowd, it was considered to be an infringement on human rights and was met with anger, tears, and fear. The news of SCOTUS's decision spread across the nation like wildfire and, within a few hours, rallies were being held in cities across the country.


Protests and Rallies Arise in Downtown Grand Rapids

On Friday, people began congregating at Veterans Memorial Park in Grand Rapids to protest against the Supreme Court's decision. Many of those gathered carried signs and flags bearing statements such as: "Silence = death," "Defend reproductive rights," "End the war on women," and "Keep your bans off my body." The demonstrators also chanted things like: "Stand up, fight back," "We will not go back," and "F--- the Supreme Court." Activists stood up and delivered passionate speeches to the protestors, encouraging them to exercise their First Amendment rights and express their dissent. 

The protests continued through the weekend. Demonstrators marched up and down the streets of downtown Grand Rapids -- chanting, waving flags, and holding signs. Rallies were held in various locations throughout the city, including Veteran's Memorial Park, Rosa Parks Circle, Wilcox Park, the Gerald R. Ford Federal Building/Federal Courthouse, and the Kent County Courthouse. At many of these rallies, speakers were called up to address the crowd -- including congressional candidate Hillary Scholten (who is running to unseat current U.S. Representative Peter Meijer) at Wilcox Park and members of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization downtown. While there was a "pro-life" presence at some of these events, they were in the minority. One of the counter-protestors at one of the downtown rallies carried a sign that read "Life begins at the moment of conception" and wore a shirt that said "Let them live." 


What the Overturning of Roe v. Wade Means for Michiganders

In the wake of SCOTUS's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, many Michiganders began to wonder what the state government would decide to do. According to a 1931 Michigan law (Michigan Penal Code 328-1931-III), knowingly inducing a miscarriage/abortion is a felony charge punishable by up to four years in prison. With Roe v. Wade overturned, that law would be, in theory, enforceable again (since the overturning of Roe v. Wade means that states are able to enforce their own abortion laws). However, Michigan's abortion law is currently in limbo due to the Michigan Court of Claims (COC) granting a preliminary injunction against it in a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood earlier this year. Individuals and organizations on both sides of the political aisle continue to fight for and against restoring this law, but no official decision has been reached.

On June 24, Governor Gretchen Whitmer published a press release that made it clear that she is working to "protect access to safe, legal abortion." She has since filed a lawsuit with the Michigan Supreme Court to get them to clarify whether or not "Michigan's state constitution protects the right to abortion." In the meantime, there appears to be disagreement and confusion among Michigan's legal leaders about whether or not the 1931 Michigan abortion law should be/can be enforced. 

Earlier this week, Kent County Prosecutor Christopher Becker released a statement declaring his intention to enforce the 1931 Michigan abortion law while it remains on the books. "I do not believe it proper for me to simply ignore a law, any law, that was passed by the Michigan State Legislature and signed by the Governor," he said. "At this time... there is a validly passed statute which has been upheld by the Court of Appeals in the past and I will not turn a blind eye and ignore it." A few days later, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel released a statement to say that the law is currently unenforceable due to the ongoing COC injunction. "As it currently stands, providing abortion care in Michigan cannot be prosecuted," she wrote. "Despite the Supreme Court's ruling last week, I remain committed to ensuring a woman's right to choose and will continue to fight against every attempt to limit access to healthcare."

Many state politicians have also taken to social media to express their thoughts on SCOTUS's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Representative Peter Meijer, a native of Grand Rapids, took to Twitter on Friday to express his support. "Today's Supreme Court decision marks the beginning of a proud new chapter in our history," he said. "Our nation's laws & policies should reflect a commitment to the sanctity of life at every stage, and this ruling is a tremendous step toward upholding this critical moral responsibility." Meanwhile, congressional candidate Hillary Scholten (also of Grand Rapids) posted her dissent against the decision on Twitter. "The ruling decided today will have severe, and extreme consequences for women and their families across our country," she stated. "Especially for women in Michigan, who, because of our state's 1931 law, would face time in prison for seeking an abortion no matter if she is a victim of rape or incest."

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