Juneau protesters rally in support of abortion access

Rallies took place across the country Tuesday as abortion rights supporters spoke out against the recent passage of more restrictive legislation in a handful of states.

In Juneau, protesters said they’re prepared to fight for their right to choose.

When Cate Ross found out she was pregnant several years ago, she knew she wasn’t ready.

She visited Juneau’s Planned Parenthood and, after weighing her options, decided to have an abortion.

Addressing a crowd of more than 300 people gathered outside the Alaska State Capitol on Tuesday, Ross said she was lucky. She’s white, middle-class and had a supportive partner at the time.

“If I did not have a choice two summers ago, I would have felt lost, instead of empowered,” she told the crowd.

Cate Ross speaks to a reporter after a rally for abortion rights in front of the Capitol on May 21, 2019. (Photo by David Purdy/KTOO)

Today Ross has a 1-year-old daughter. She said after the rally that she wants to speak openly about her experience.

“I have the privilege to be able to do that and not face negative consequences,” Ross said. “So I want to be a voice, to use my privilege to speak out in ways that maybe other people can’t.”

Ross and other speakers Tuesday said they’re concerned by what they see as a growing trend of restricting not only abortion, but reproductive health care access across the country.

Even though abortion is currently legal nationally, recent legislation passed in Alabama and elsewhere has raised alarms among pro-choice advocates about a new wave of restrictions

Here in Alaska, Wasilla Republican Rep. David Eastman introduced House Bill 178 on the last day of the regular legislative session. The bill would effectively outlaw abortion.

There’s no plan to address it during the current special session, but it’s one of the reasons Ross and other protesters came out.

A small counterprotest at the rally for abortion rights in front of the Capitol on May 21, 2019. (Photo by David Purdy/KTOO)

“Obviously, I’m concerned about what’s happening in Alaska because I live in Alaska, but it’s not isolated here,” Ross said. “It’s a nationwide trend with more and more states trying to pass bills like this, and as such it needs to be a nationwide movement.”

A number of Democratic legislators joined the rally. Juneau Democratic Rep. Sara Hannan spoke as well.

Sporting a pin that read, “Don’t like abortions? Don’t have one,” Hannan said even though she doesn’t expect Eastman’s bill to make it far, she and other female legislators are tired of fighting these restrictions.

“This is assumed law for 47 years, so why are we spending time and energy to try and undo it?” Hannan asked.

A small handful of counter protesters stood silently apart from the crowd.

Juneau resident Tyler Riberio held a sign reading “It’s a life, it’s a person, let’s protect them together.”

He said he thinks abortion is not a safe choice for women, but he’s not familiar with Eastman’s bill.

Similar rallies took place in Soldotna and Fairbanks.

A rally in Homer is planned for Saturday.

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