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‘This Is Just The Beginning:’ Eugene Stands Firm In Its Fight For Reproductive Justice

On a—rare for this season—sunny Spring day, Lane County residents gathered their signs, mustered their rage and concern, and rallied for abortion and the fundamental human right to choose. As protests, rallies, and direct actions erupt nationwide—along with fired-up politicians reacting to the unprecedentedly leaked Supreme Court opinion—Oregonians step in-line and refuse to buckle under conservative pressure. 

Supporters attend the “Bans Off Eugene with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon” rally at the University of Oregon’s Erb Memorial Union on May 14, 2022. [James Croxton // Double Sided Media]

Oregonians are not shy in their support and dedication to reproductive healthcare and the right to choose. Abortion on demand with little-to-no barriers or restrictions to access, and near-universal access to birth control. Including funding mechanisms that elevate financial barriers to persons seeking healthcare — regardless of residency, citizenship, or immigration status, are the law of the land. 

Oregonians codified our beliefs in bodily autonomy, reproductive healthcare, and the right to choose into law. And now that our beliefs and way of life are under attack by an extremist Supreme Court.  As a result, Oregonians are putting their boots on the ground, putting words to former ballot boxes, and standing firm.

Prior to the scheduled rally at the University of Oregon’s Erb Memorial Union, a press conference at the Wayne Lyman Morse Federal Courthouse was held. In attendance were representatives from Planned Parenthood Southwestern Oregon, various reproductive health/rights advocacy groups, Oregon State Senator James Manning, and Oregon Labor Commissioner and current House of Representative candidate Val Hoyle, and Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis. 

Oregon Senator James Manning speaks during the “Bans Off Eugene with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon” press conference on May 14, 2022. [James Croxton // Double Sided Media]

Sen. Manning strongly affirmed their belief in a woman’s right to choose, and in the “fundamental human right” of bodily autonomy. Warning that the attack on civil rights by conservatives is only beginning, and equating anti-choice and—support of—the criminalization of abortion akin to supporting Putin. As both are aligned with conservative authoritarianism and anti-democratic policies and beliefs.

A spokesperson delivered a statement from both Peter Defazio and Senator Ron Wyden, both affirming their belief in, and commitment to, upholding the right to an abortion. Defazio hammered-in that the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade is the culmination of decades of conservative lobbying. Senator Wyden vowed to “not stand back and allow our country to slip into back-alley abortions and uterus surveillance.” Both statements warned of what could come in the wake of Roe ceasing to be the law of the land and solidified their stake in fighting for reproductive justice.

A Department of Homeland Security police officer stands on the steps of the Federal Courthouse during the “Bans Off Eugene with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon” press conference on May 14, 2022. [James Croxton // Double Sided Media]

Also at the press conference was a small, but vocal, counter-protest. The pro-lifers repeatedly shouted over the speakers during the press conference and were often met with scolds and hushes from those in the main crowd.

A small counter-protest at the “Bans Off Eugene with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon” press conference in front of the Federal Courthouse on May 14, 2022. [James Croxton // Double Sided Media]

After the press conference, at 3 p.m., the main rally was held at the University of Oregon’s Erb Memorial Union. There, hundreds of supporters had already gathered. Before speeches commenced at the rally, a poet—who is also a UO Freshman—opened the rally with a spoken word poem entitled “Medusa,” setting the tone.

During the rally, the counter-protesters from the press conference showed up. Separate from them was another counter-protester who repeatedly shouted over the crowd and tried to move into the crowed; blocked each and every time by those with bicycles and their bodies. After a few minutes of playing cat-and-mouse with those on the edge of the crowd, he was called aside by Sergeant Chris Phillips with the University of Oregon Police Department where he received a lecture about how this rally was sanctioned by the University and, therefore, protected from disruption.

University of Oregon Police Sergeant Chris Phillips talks to a counter-protester who was yelling pro-life phrases and trying to disrupt the rally. [James Croxton // Double Sided Media]

A common theme in all speeches was that abortion is just the beginning of the assault on civil and human rights and that this current assault is just an iteration of previous institutional control and violence over bodies. Except for this time, the historical bodies of Black, Brown, Indigenous, Disabled, and Queers are secondary victims. This current hammering of reproductive rights is a white supremacist project in reaction to a declining white birth rate, white abortion rate, and the thriving communities of color across America.

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Janusz Malo

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