AP NEWS

Local activists protest Alabama abortion law

May 18, 2019

WESTPORT — With signs that read “Stop the War on Women” and “Keep your laws off my body,” activists of all ages took to the Post Road bridge Friday afternoon to protest Alabama’s passage of a controversial abortion bill.

“I hope that it just wakes people up. ... That the next generation of girls are not left with the real possibility that their rights will be taken away and find themselves living in a world that looks more like the 1800s than the 2000s,” political activist and Westport resident Darcy Hicks said prior to the gathering.

Organized by DefenDemocracy of CT, a political action group Hicks founded in 2016 — in conjunction with the Westport Democratic Town Committee, Resisters, the Democratic Women of Westport and others — the protest brought together around 40 people to the bridge in downtown Westport.

Under Alabama’s law, doctors could now face felony charges and up to 99 years in prison for performing an abortion at any stage of pregnancy, the only exception being when the mother’s life is in jeopardy.

Rape and incest cases are not exempt from the bill, which was signed into law by Republican Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday.

Alabama’s criminalization of abortion comes on the heels of other states’ efforts to challenge Roe v. Wade.

Within the past month, Republican governors Gov. Mike DeWine, of Ohio, and Gov. Brian Kemp, of Georgia, both signed so-called “fetal heartbeat” laws, which ban abortions after a heartbeat is detected — sometimes as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, before most women know they’re pregnant.

In contrast, Connecticut lawmakers are looking to strengthen abortion rights protections, with House members on Thursday advancing a measure that “prohibits deceptive advertising practices by the so-called crisis pregnancy centers,” according to a CT Mirror report. “Critics say staff at the facilities sometimes pose as medical professionals to lure women and hand out misleading information about abortions.”

Still, local activists say they want to make people aware of what is happening nationally, in order to protect women’s rights at home.

“What Connecticut can do is keep strengthening our laws,” Third Selectwoman Melissa Kane said, as cars drove by honking in support.

She also encouraged Westporters to donate to organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, which has filed lawsuits against states with abortion bans.

Amy Dry, who attended the protest with her childen Tommy and Lindsay, said she wants to see her kids grow up in a world where everyone is treated equally. The teens expressed it’s important to speak up and fight for equality.

Several men also turned out in solidarity, including resident Mark Friedman, who viewed the protest as more than just a women’s issue.

“I see this as a human issue that impacts everyone, and I want to show my support for the pro-choice movement,” he said.

Meanwhile, Westport DTC member Sal Liccione is hoping the protest sparks GOP lawmakers to publicly speak out against Alabama and other states with restrictive abortion laws.

“I think the Alabama stuff is a real disgrace. ... It’s appalling,” he said. “I think Republicans in Connecticut need to stand up against this.”

Republican First Selectman Jim Marpe, who attended the rally along with Second Selectwoman Jen Tooker, doesn’t see abortion rights as a partisan issue in Westport.

“On a personal level, I’ve always supported a woman’s right to choose, and I’m appalled by the actions of the Alabama Legislature and governor and similar actions that appear to be taken in other states,” he said.

“I don’t believe it is the role of government to get involved in a woman’s right to choose. Period,” Tooker added.

State Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport, took to Twitter after Alabama’s Senate voted to ban nearly all abortions. “This is very, very scary,” he wrote. “I know the arc of history is supposed to bend toward justice, but tonight’s vote feels like a U-turn.”

At the end of the day, Hicks sees protests as an educational opportunity to teach people about what they can actually do about issues that matter to them.

“It’s not just a yelling spree,” she said. “... Standing on the bridge is doing something, and it usually propels other actions.”

lteixeira@ctpost.com