DAYTON, Ohio — With colorful signs, a chorus of cowbells and buckets of sidewalk chalk, hundreds of abortion rights activists lined the streets outside Dayton’s Oregon district, hoping to make some noise.
Though it’s been two weeks since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost removed the injunction on the state’s heartbeat bill—which bans abortion after six weeks or when a fetal heartbeat is detected—the organizers behind Sunday’s protest say the fight isn’t over. Instead, they plan to come out every month until November in hopes of reminding voters the law is now in the hands of whoever fills the legislature and the statehouse.
Rachel Gannon and her sister planned the protest independently of any organization or advocacy group because they said they were surprised to see there weren’t many efforts in the Dayton area to keep the momentum going for those who disagreed with the decision at the national and state level.
“We decided to put together our own, and it kind of took off, and we’re here today to make our voices known,” Gannon said. “People can’t get complacent. People can’t just lay down and say this is what it is now.”
In response, Gannon created a Facebook event, calling for those in opposition to the Supreme Court's decision to come to Bomberger Park and fill the surrounding sidewalks.
“It’s overwhelming to see the response that we’ve gotten that we have this many people,” she said. “It says a lot.”
Besides having a large showing, Gannon said she also wanted the event to serve as a call to action. She hung posters with QR codes around the park, offering links for people to register to vote or to donate to groups working across Ohio and the country to end restrictions on abortion.
“It’s time to keep reminding people that there’s an opportunity to change the trajectory of this in the next few months,” she said.
To her the issue is simple. Gannon believes no one should be forced to carry a pregnancy to term against their will, and currently a pregnant woman herself, she has a lot of perspective about the impact even a wanted pregnancy can have on the body.
“Pregnancy’s not fun. It’s not sunshine and rainbows, and you’ve got that glow—it’s pain. It’s nausea. It’s misery,” she said. "Why would we force that upon somebody?”
For groups like Right to Live, which has local chapters across Ohio, the issue is equally intractable. Members believe abortion kills a child, and therefore they must do everything possible to protect that life.
In the wake of the Supreme Court decision, proponents cheered the opinion while calling for more resources to help those dealing with unplanned or unwanted pregnancies.
Dayton’s Right to Life chapter, expanded the visibility of its baby pantry, Stork’s Nest, offering formula, diapers and baby clothes to parents in need.
For parents like Tina Morrison, though, efforts like that will never be enough to justify taking away the choice to have an abortion. She came to the protest with her 20-year-old daughter, and she said she’s furious her girl has fewer options than she did when she was her age.
“There are too many people that don’t even know they’re pregnant by the time the heartbeat bill has already passed,” she said. “These young people need to have options.”
Morrison said she also worries restrictions on abortions will mean women will be forced to carry life-threatening or nonviable pregnancies longer than is safe or healthy.
“It scares me to death,” she said. “I want to make sure that she has everything that she needs.”
For those women and anyone else who no longer gets to make that choice, Gannon plans to continue hosting events like this once a month to remind voters and politicians that abortion is on the ballot this November.
“Anything that we can do to keep this at the forefront of people’s minds,” she said.