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Dozens Defy Rain in Columbia and Rally for Women's Reproductive Rights

Community members huddled under umbrellas Saturday at the Boone County Courthouse Plaza in support of reproductive rights.

“A little rain isn’t gonna stop us from coming here to talk and take back what we really need in this country,” Barbie Banks, co-executive director of the Ragtag Film Society, exclaimed to the crowd.

The event was organized by CoMo for Progress, Planned Parenthood and Peaceworks. Organizers called on students, parents, leaders and members in the community to gather as part of a national effort to fight for reproductive rights and enjoy poems, musical and dance performances and calls to action from various speakers. The event was among around 600 rallies organized across the nation in response to the passage of abortion restrictions.

The first speaker at the rally was state Rep. Martha Stevens, D-Columbia, who said that on Sept. 21, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in Missouri heard arguments on whether to continue to block House Bill 126, which would ban abortion at eight weeks, pose a legal threat to doctors and make abortion a felony if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

“If they decide to lift the preliminary injunction, Missouri is going to join Texas as the second state in the nation where most abortions are prohibited,” said Stevens, followed by a wave of boos in the crowd.

Another speaker at the rally was the Rev. Molly Housh Gordon, who stressed the idea that there are people of faith from different traditions who stand in support for abortion accessibility.

“These laws are not about life; they’re about control and oppression,” Gordon said. “If these extremist legislatures cared about life, they would be addressing the crisis of maternal and fetal mortality, especially in Black women in our state and beyond.”

Gordon went on to refer to issues of a delay in Medicaid expansion, police brutality, racial injustice and pandemic discrepancies as examples of the contradictory nature of using “pro-life” as a driving argument for such laws.

In addition to the discussion of challenges to reproductive rights, the conversation expanded to encompass other concerns and experiences of injustice. Shaunda Hamilton spoke to share her experience with community violence in Columbia through the killing of her 18-year-old daughter, Nadria Wright.

“We tend to place the blame on victims in all types of areas, and it doesn’t matter what kind of victim they are, victims are often blamed and ostracized,” Hamilton said.

In addition to speakers and activists, there were lip-syncing performances from Amanda Lay, Miss Gay City of Columbia 2021, a dance performance from the Stephens College Dance Team and several song and poetry performances by artists in the community.

Students from MU, Stephens College and Columbia College were among the many who joined the rally with signs held high ready to speak out about women’s rights.

“I think it’s important as college students to come out to get our voices heard in the community because we are the future and these laws do or will affect us,” said Judy Kinter, a senior at Columbia College.

Kate Canterbury, one of the organizers of the event, concluded with calls for community action, including donating to organizations like Planned Parenthood, calling the offices of representatives and politicians, joining boards and committees, and even running for office.

“We do not need more white men in office,” Canterbury said. “Vote them out.”

The Columbia Missourian is a community news organization managed by professional editors and staffed by Missouri School of Journalism students who do the reporting, design, copy editing, information graphics, photography and multimedia.