Today's Edition Local News Missouri News National News World Opinion Obits Sports GoMidMo Events Classifieds Jobs Newsletters Contests Search
story.lead_photo.caption Abortion rights activists rally Saturday outside the Missouri Capitol. The rally came a day after the state momentarily lost its only remaining abortion clinic in St. Louis. Photo by Sally Ince / News Tribune.

Hundreds of people from across Missouri marched between the Capitol and the Missouri Governor's Mansion and rallied in support of abortion rights Saturday morning.

The rally came a day after the state momentarily lost its only remaining abortion clinic.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services had refused to renew the Planned Parenthood location's license, citing health concerns.

A St. Louis judge granted the organization a preliminary injunction, giving it the right to continue operating. Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer is to issue a final ruling on the clinic at an undetermined time.

Missouri would be the first state without the clinic since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized a woman's right to an abortion through the Roe v. Wade case in 1973.

Abortion supporters on Saturday called for the ouster of DHSS Director Randall Williams. Under Williams, the department issued a mandate that women seeking abortions undergo pelvic exams at least three days before receiving an abortion.

Supporters of women's right to abortion point to the move as another example of the state "moving the goalposts" for abortion providers to continue practicing.

Late last week, Williams backed off on the requirement.

More than 500 people attended the "Everyone for Reproductive Rights" rally at the Capitol on Saturday morning.

At about 9 a.m., they began to gather in the first floor of the Rotunda, where they chanted slogans and displayed signs showing their disapproval with the Missouri Legislature and Gov. Mike Parson.

Most of the lawmakers who passed the Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act in May, which outlaws abortion as early as eight weeks, were men, Lizzie Seal, of St. Louis, said.

"Recent legislative decisions have had an impact on women," Seal said. "And the decisions spur us to speak. We're sick of it. We're tired of it. And, we need health care too."

Nearing the end of the legislative session, the Legislature passed the bill and Parson signed it into law. An emergency clause meant it went into effect immediately.

It's not fair for women's health care to be determined by people who are mostly not their gender, Seal said.

People who have a uterus aren't allowed to make their own health decisions, Hannah Gafen, of Columbia, said.

As the morning continued, the crowd in the Rotunda grew. By the time protesters marched down Capitol Avenue to the Missouri's Governor's Mansion, it had swelled to more than 500.

The protesters repeated chants.

"Stand up. Fight back," the crowd shouted.

"Stop the bans;" "No uterus — no opinion;" and "We stand behind Planned Parenthood" were more of the chants they offered.

Hundreds held signs with slogans that said "I stand with Planned Parenthood;" "Roe Roe Roe your vote;" "Respect my existence or expect my resistance;" "If my uterus shot bullets, Missouri legislators wouldn't be so concerned;" and many more.

The group rallied in front of the mansion, shouting "Whose house? Our house" or "Not your body. Not your choice."

It then returned to the south lawn of the Capitol where women testified about their experiences with abortion.

Ashley Grantham, a 33-year-old Columbia woman, told listeners that when she was 15, a man who was a friend of her mother's raped her.

The man had agreed to take Grantham to a concert. But, while she was there, she began to feel odd.

"He doped me," Grantham said. "It was like a bad dream that I didn't really have. I had a hard time making words."

If she could make words, they didn't make sense to her.

He was supposed to take her home but instead took her to his own home, where he raped her.

About nine weeks later, she began to realize she was pregnant.

Fortunately, she had a Planned Parenthood site nearby and was able to walk there over lunch. The organization gives free pregnancy tests. She learned she was pregnant.

Yes, her mother was mad, Grantham said. But, she was mostly angry with the man who had raped her daughter.

"(My mother) told me it was my decision and mine only," Grantham said regarding whether or not to get an abortion. "I made a hard choice that day, but I made the right one. I do not regret my choice."

More than one in four women has had an abortion, said Cortney Bouse, a Mid-Missouri grassroots organizer for Planned Parenthood Great Plains. She said it is a common procedure.

Speaking to the crowd on the lawn, Bouse said they should think about their friends — that it is likely more of them than they know have had to have an abortion.

It's important for women like Grantham to speak up and let the public know there are others like them out there.

"Part of the reason," Bouse said, "that people think they can make this laws is the shame and stigma associated with abortion."

COMMENTS - It looks like you're using Internet Explorer, which isn't compatible with our commenting system. You can join the discussion by using another browser, like Firefox or Google Chrome.
It looks like you're using Microsoft Edge. Our commenting system is more compatible with Firefox and Google Chrome.