The pro-choice rally at the last clinic in Missouri to offer abortions was held Friday evening in St. Louis. Hundreds of people packed the parking lot of the Planned Parenthood building on Forest Park Avenue; dozens more lined the sidewalk and median, waving signs and calling to traffic that honked back.
Missouri became the first U.S. state to ban abortion after Friday’s Supreme Court ruling overthrew Roe v. Wade.
Eric Schmitt, Missouri’s Attorney General, immediately posted a video on Twitter. “I am humbled to be a part of this,” he said, “and the first attorney general in the country to effectively end abortion. […] Thank you. And may God bless you and the entire state of Missouri.”
As speakers engaged the crowd from a second-floor balcony, rally workers handed out placards and bags with condoms and cards on how to use them. Meghan, 22, a volunteer for Pro-Choice Missouri, was helping people get signed in and handing out posters. I asked about the court’s decision.
“I’m not sure if I’ve fully processed it,” she said. “It’s definitely big, but I’m really glad I’m in community with a bunch of people and actually doing something.” She said she had already been “clinic-escorting” and doing other tasks for the organization for months.
US Senate candidate Lucas Kunce, a Democrat from Missouri, told me that “overturning Roe versus Wade is about taking power away from people.” He mentioned his time as a Marine overseas, in countries where “Big Brother governments take rights away from people.”
“It hurts the weakest among us; it hurts people without money. […] I think it’s important to stand against that and stand for reproductive rights and abortion for everyone who needs it.”
“I’ve seen national Democrats talk about this like it’s an election issue,” he said. “In Missouri, this isn’t an election issue, this is a right-now issue. […] I hate to see how we have the ability right now to get rid of the filibuster and actually codify Roe v. Wade and protect abortion rights, and we’re not doing it.”
Amanda, 33, a St. Louis resident, told me, “I am very overwhelmed that the Supreme Court thinks that my bodily autonomy is conditional. That I have less rights than a fetus, less rights than a gun, at this point,” she said. “It’s infuriating. I can’t believe the year’s 2022 and we’re having to protest for the same things that our grandparents fought for. It’s insane.”
“It doesn’t stop abortion. It just stops safe abortion.”
“Are you guys angry?” a speaker called on the sound system.
“Yes!” roared the crowd.
“Are you guys frustrated?”
Donna, 69, was posing for a friend with a sign that read, “Protesting since 1953.”
“There was a guy over there asking me what was I protesting in 1953,” she told me. “And I said I was born [then], and my mother told me I hadn’t shut up since that happened.” She said the court’s decision was “appalling” and that she had been making financial donations to a Missouri House Democrat PAC that would focus on races where a difference could be made.
As for the next six years, “I’m afraid for our democracy.” She was a retired middle-school civics teacher—”primarily American government and US history”—and couldn’t imagine trying to teach rights and truthful history now.
“You’re trying to create responsible citizens,” she said, “and people who would vote and contribute to society in a positive way, and I don’t know, I’m scared for us.”
On the street corner across the intersection, Neil Thompson, “68 going on 44,” made an odd figure. He was dressed in white poncho, white pants, white gloves, white slouch hat, and spotless white Doc Martens. His hair was long, he wore a large crucifix around his neck, and he carried a staff. I asked what he was dressed as.
“A godly, righteous, holy man, Christ Jesus,” he said. He said he and a few others with the Third Baptist Church were “outnumbered” at the rally, and he seemed confused over recent events.
“You know how it is,” he said. “We will win sooner or later. Love will conquer all, and the truth will set us free and make us free. You know, every state don’t need to have abortion. We shouldn’t have it in the state of Missouri. We need to make Missouri the hoooly land.”
He said Missouri was “the heart of America, and love comes from the heart, and the [St. Louis] Arch means love, and it’s a separation from east to west, like Moses told ‘em: All you people that don’t wanna live [righteously], stay over there where you’re at. All you people who wanna live like God said to live, move west of the Mississippi River….
“All the people who believe in God, we need to start a whole new country, I reckon,” Thompson said. “Shouldn’t Jesus have somewhere to come back to?”