Carl Hessler Jr., The Pottstown Mercury 

NORRISTOWN — Advocates for abortion rights and women’s health carried signs, sang protest anthems and shouted ”we will not go back” at a rally outside the Montgomery County Courthouse, making clear they are prepared to fight to keep abortion a legal option for women.

“We are in a fight to make sure that every person has the power to control their own bodies, their own lives and their own futures,” Valerie Arkoosh, Democratic chairwoman of the board of county commissioners, addressed a crowd of more than 200 that gathered Monday at an event dubbed the “Montco Rally For Abortion Rights.”

“No judge, no politician, should ever block you from the health care that you need or set the course for your life. Abortion access should not be based on your zip code, your income level or your immigration status,” Arkoosh said as the crowd cheered and applauded.

“That’s right!” one woman attending the rally shouted back. “We will not go back!” others began to chant.

The rally came one week after a draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion was leaked to the public, signaling that the high court may be preparing to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that legalized abortion nationwide. The move would return abortion rights to the states.

“The stakes could not be higher. As a mom of a 20-year-old daughter, it sickens me to think that she is facing a life with fewer constitutional rights than I have had,” Arkoosh continued. “As a doctor who has sat at the bedside of women making incredibly difficult decisions about their pregnancies, I know there is no place in those decisions for any politician in Harrisburg or Washington, D.C.”

Energized men and women, young and old, combined forces as they stood on the marble courthouse steps during the rally for reproductive freedom, many waving pink and white signs that blared “Together We Fight for All.” Other demonstrators held signs that said “Reproductive Rights are Human Rights,” “Pro-Life Is Anti-Women! We Won’t Go Back!” and “I Believe in Choice.”

Attendees and speakers included county, state and federal Democratic elected officials who showed up to express they were allies in the fight to keep nearly 50 years of federal abortion protections intact.

“We will not stand for becoming second class citizens,” U.S. Congresswoman Madeleine Dean, the Democrat who represents the 4th District that includes most of Montgomery County and parts of Berks. “This is about choice. This is about privacy and a very powerful and important right that is enshrined in the Constitution.”

Dean specifically called attention to the leaked draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito who wrote that the decision on Roe v. Wade was “egregiously wrong from the start.”

“What’s egregiously wrong is how Justice Alito misled the Senate and misled all of us as to what he would do regarding Roe. And if Roe can be taken away after 50 years what else will be considered ‘egregiously wrong from the start?’” said Dean, expressing her concern for the ripple effect on other precedent in cases that protect same-sex marriage, interracial marriage and access to contraception.

“It is no one’s damned business what I do with my body or what other women and girls do with theirs and it’s certainly not Justice Alito’s,” Dean added. “We will not stop. We will keep rallying. We will not go back.”

U.S. Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon, a Democrat who represents the 5th District that includes Delaware County and a portion of Montgomery County, said last week’s leaked opinion “made clear that we’re right to be worried.”

“The fall of Roe makes government-mandated pregnancy a reality and that is as creepy as it sounds,” Scanlon said.

As a yellow school bus passed the courthouse and children on board excitedly waved and shouted “Hi” to the crowd, some rally attendees remarked, “This is for them, we’re doing this for them.”

Members of Voices Rising Philly led the crowd in the singing of a version of the civil rights anthem, “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round.”

“We’re gonna keep on walkin’, keep on talkin’, gonna build a brand new day,” attendees proudly lifted their voices.

Other speakers at the rally included Signe Espinoza, executive director of Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates, Beulah Osueke of New Voices for Reproductive Justice, State Rep. Nancy Guenst (D-152nd Dist.) and State Sen. Maria Collett (D-12th Dist.).

In Pennsylvania, speakers said, the only thing that has stood between the constitutional right to abortion and the “Texas-style bans” being proposed by Republicans who control the legislature has been the veto pen of Democratic Governor Tom Wolf.

With Pennsylvania elections looming this year for governor and the U.S. Senate, speakers urged attendees to elect leaders who will defend abortion rights.

“It is our votes that will make the difference,” Arkoosh said. “Pennsylvania is the best opportunity Democrats have to gain a seat in the United States Senate.”

Arkoosh closed her remarks by praising the “tireless work of those staunch advocates” who fought for reproductive rights more than 50 years ago.

“Our job is to pick up that fight and it’s our turn to fight like hell on behalf of our sisters and our children and our grandchildren,” said Arkoosh, whose remarks were greeted with thunderous applause from the crowd.

There were no signs of counter-demonstrations by abortion opponents during the hour-long event.

See full article here.