Northwest Arkansas community members marched through downtown Fayetteville on Oct. 2 in solidarity against recent attempts to curb abortion rights across the country.
The protest occurred at the Fayetteville Square at the same time Women’s March protests were happening across the country, including in Arkansas cities such as Fort Smith, Little Rock, Jonesboro and Mountain Home. The approximately 300 attendees of the Fayetteville protest held signs with slogans including “My body, my choice” and “Abortion rights are human rights” while marching down Block Street.
The protests come after the Supreme Court allowed a Texas law to pass Sept. 1, prohibiting abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant. As part of that ban, any private citizen in Texas can sue abortion providers and others who help women obtain abortions after six weeks. This could include ride-share drivers who transport women to clinics or friends who provide them with financial assistance for abortion.
Abortions in Arkansas are illegal after 20 weeks unless the procedure will save a mother’s life, with no exemptions for cases of rape or incest. Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a bill in March attempting to outlaw all abortion, but U.S. District Judge Kristine G. Baker temporarily blocked it. Hutchinson has signed multiple bills to curtail abortion access since he took office in 2015.
Protest attendee Pheva Veers, thinks women’s reproductive rights should not be in the hands of those who cannot empathize with the struggles they go through weighing options, she said.
“There shouldn’t be laws on abortion,” Veers said. “It should be available between a doctor and a patient.”
Kirstin Jung, who attended the protest, said she thinks the world is moving backward on women’s rights. She worries Arkansas will follow Texas’ lead on abortion restrictions.
“It’s important to make safe abortion accessible to everyone, regardless of their background or their income,” Jung said.
Organizers of the coordinated nationwide women’s protests included National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, Planned Parenthood, SHERO Mississippi, Mississippi in Action, Access Reproductive Care-Southeast, The Frontline, Working Families Party and SisterSong, according to the Women’s March nonprofit.
Wrenetta Austin, an organizer of the Fayetteville protest, spoke from a podium about how she thinks supporters of women’s rights must come together to prevent continued assaults on abortion access.
“If a bill similar to Texas’ passes in Arkansas, in nearly a year, people in Arkansas are going to be facing the same issues that people in Texas are,” Austin said. “That is why we are here today.”
Jessica Wood, 20, of Fayetteville who uses they/them pronouns, said they attended the protest to show support support for those who do not have access to abortion. They hope the protests will inspire others around the country to take action to advance reproductive rights.
“I think everyone should have access to free abortions,” Wood said. “I don’t think it's something that should be limited to any group of people at any time and I don’t think there should be any restrictions.”
Veers thinks there are many reasons why people get abortions, and that the procedure should happen in a safe and supportive environment, she said.
“Abortion is healthcare,” Veers said. “There’s hundreds of reasons people need abortions and none of them are anybody’s business.”