WAYNE — For Susanne Markman, participating in a rally to protect abortion rights was an easy decision to make: it was the only thing she could do to honor the memory of her former student.
Markman, a former Woodland Park teacher who was pregnant in 1968, had a student named Rena, an eighth grader who, unbeknownst to Markman, was also pregnant.
“She came over and touched my stomach to wish me luck,” Markman said. “A week later she died of an abortion in an alley.”
Markman was one of more than 70 abortion rights advocates who stood before the Lakeland Unitarian Universalist Fellowship on Saturday afternoon asking the Supreme Court not to overturn the 50-year precedent set by Roe v. Wade. More than 380 “Bans Off Our Bodies” protests for abortion rights were planned for Saturday across the country, with the largest crowds expected in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Austin, Texas, according to organizers.
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Markman said she was not surprised by the Supreme Court’s decision to consider overturning Roe v. Wade, but that she was very disappointed. This disappointment did not slow her down, however, and she insisted on the importance of making her voice heard.
“Don’t fret, get organized,” Markman said. “Let’s stop crying over things and get organized.”
The church welcomed abortion rights advocates onto their property. The crowd held signs and shared their own stories of why the Roe v. Wade from 1973 should not be undone.
“We feel responsible to do what we can in these times to promote social justice, women’s rights and fight for what is right,” said Rich Nasch, president of the Lakeland Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.
Advocates have stressed the importance of increasing the percentage of active voters, saying elected leaders are a critical component in preserving women’s right to choose.
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Wayne’s Cindy Simon said voters need to send a message that “religion has no place on Capitol Hill and women have the right to retain their own health care decisions.” She also urged people to get involved in politics, even if it’s just 10 minutes a day.
“If we go out and vote, we can win,” Simon said. “But we have to go.”
Others thought the removal of women’s rights could be the start of challenging other rights in the country, such as same-sex marriage. Tom Van Denburgh, a Wayne resident who serves as communications director for Atheists America, said as a gay man he knows women’s rights “are the first to go” and people need to stand up to protect women’s rights and LGBTQ rights.
“The Supreme Court destroyed the separation of church and state,” Van Denburgh said. “When they do that, they can impose their religion on you, and that’s exactly what they do.”
Hailey Read, a journalism student at Sussex County Community College, said she was sorry the older generation had to keep protesting every decade to uphold women’s rights, but she had faith in the younger generation to carry on to get the ball rolling.
“I think we’re going to be the generation that puts the nail in the coffin and ends this,” Read said.
This story contains reports from USA Today.