BENNINGTON — About 20 demonstrators gathered at the Four Corners Tuesday, joining a nationwide day of action to protest multiple states' recent efforts to severely restrict abortion.
Most held posters bearing slogans such as "My Body My Choice," "Legal Abortion Saves Lives" and "Keep Your Laws Off My Body," as passing drivers honked.
Hunter Crowl organized the demonstration after she saw that there was one planned in Montpelier, but none locally.
"I decided we would [do] something here," she said. "I think it's a hundred percent within our rights to have the choice to have an abortion."
In direct response to 15 laws passed around the country to restrict abortion, multiple groups partnered in a Stop the Bans Day of Action Tuesday, with protests at state capitols and courthouses in all 50 states, according to Planned Parenthood's website. The involved organizations included Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, MoveOn and NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Although Alabama's recently-signed ban that prohibits abortion in nearly all cases is the "worst by far," Crowl said other bills that would restrict abortion are also very extreme.
Last week, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed that state's new abortion law, the most stringent one in the nation, which makes performing an abortion a felony in nearly all cases unless necessary for the mother's health. The law provides no exception for rape and incest.
Several states have passed new bans or restrictions on abortions this year, including Georgia and Mississippi bans on abortions after six weeks, The Washington Post has reported. The states are hoping that U.S. Supreme Court, with new conservative justices, will reevaluate and perhaps overturn its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
"I'm here because I think autonomy is super-important for women," said Erynn Hazlett, of Arlington.
Hazlett said she has never not known choice. She said she wants to make sure her voice is heard — choice is a woman's right and a human right, she said.
"I'm here to support womens' right to choose what they do with their own bodies," said Tom Haley.
He said he understand's people's ethical issues with abortion — but one person's ethical ideas don't override another's.
"Which makes for a Catch-22, I understand it," he said.
Lynn Mazza said the recent attacks on abortion access are "particularly egregious" because they're combined with an unwillingness to provide care for children the laws would force women to have.
"I see more pro-birth than pro-life," Hawley responded.
Across the intersection from Hawley and Mazza, outside Fiddlehead at Four Corners, Rosa Bascomb held a sign with the text of the Ninth Amendment from the Bill of Rights.
"The future of our society. My future. America's future," brought her to the protest, said Bascomb, a teacher at Molly Stark Elementary School.
Next to her stood Dianna Leazer, of Bennington.
"A lot of these folks are younger women," she said of the other demonstrators. "We fought the fight, but you guys have to pick it up and kick ass," she said to Bascomb.
She said she's been fighting for things like abortion access and equal pay for women for 30 years.
When asked what brought her to the demonstration, Gulley said it was her daughter.
"I have a 3-year-old daughter, and I want her to grow up in a place where she can make her own decisions about her body," she said. When you take away a person's choice, you take away their freedom, she said.
By the clock across the street from South Street Cafe and Bakery, Jim Vires said he was standing in support of women.
"I am a 62-year-old white man," he said. People like him, he said, "don't have the right to choose what a woman does with her body."
Nearby, Chelsea Crawford held a "Keep Your Laws Off My Body" sign.
"I feel like we should have the right to our body," she said. "Plain and simple. I've always been pro-choice."
Demonstrator Khendra Libbey said that, while she could never personally see herself getting an abortion, taking other people's choice away is wrong, she said.
"You can't be pro-life if you don't care about the actual life," she said. "It's a person inside, but they are not a person who can live on their own."
And, Crawford responded, abortions will always happen, whether they are legal or not.
"Why not just regulate it, and keep the [woman] safe?" Libbey said. "Why not care about the woman?"
Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.