Toni Callahan and her husband, Larry Callahan, sat quietly on the outskirts of a massive and peaceful rally in downtown Portland on Saturday.
They wore bright pink T-shirts and carried protest signs showing their support for abortion rights. They were among tens of thousands of others who joined Bans Off Our Bodies rallies in cities across the country.
Both said they remember how dangerous abortion was before it was legalized in 1973. Toni Callahan recalled when she had to help a friend through the aftermath of an illegal abortion in the ‘60s.
“The pain, the blood, everything. It was so scary,” she said. “And that’s how we did it then. We had no choice.”
Larry Callahan, too, had a friend whose partner underwent an illegal abortion in a motel.
“Back then, doctors who had the ability to perform a reasonably safe abortion, they were putting their lives at stake,” he said. “The penalties for that were extremely harsh.”
That’s what brought them to the plaza in front of the Multnomah County Justice Center on Saturday afternoon — to support people’s constitutional rights to an abortion, which were guaranteed by the U.S. Supreme Court following its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
But that could change. Earlier this month, Politico published a leaked draft opinion signaling that the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Numerous polls, including one by the Pew Research Center, show that a majority of Americans support legal abortion.
When Kam Kent, who stood among the crowd at the Portland rally, heard about the draft opinion, she was angry. Kent is a clinical supervisor and oversees medical assistants who perform abortions.
“A lot of people don’t get the opportunity and choice to get the support they need,” Kent said. “I have a stance and opportunity to fight for them.”
For Kent, the right to an abortion is important to her both professionally and personally.
“I was actually adopted when I was younger,” Kent said. “So for me, a lot of people probably assume that I would not be where I’m standing. But as we get older, and you become a woman, you learn about the rights that you need.”
Across the rally, people shared a similar sentiment: They wanted to be heard, and this was their opportunity to do that.
“It’d be amazing if our words were heard and respected and we felt like we were gaining some ground in this democracy that we supposedly live in, but don’t really seem to be experiencing,” said Irena Schaffer. “It’d be really amazing if we keep showing up and keep making noise.”