‘Our bodies are ours and ours alone’: Women across Kansas march to defend abortion rights

By: - October 2, 2021 12:47 pm

Megan Hartford leads a march to defend abortion rights Oct. 2, 2021, in Manhattan. She spoke about the relationship between reproductive rights and poverty. (Bailey Britton for Kansas Reflector)

MANHATTAN — Kansans marched Saturday in defense of abortion rights in cities statewide in coordination with a national response to attacks on women’s reproductive rights.

The marches were planned in Manhattan, Topeka, Hays, Salina, Lawrence and several locations in the Kansas City, Kansas, area. The Rally to Defend Abortion Rights is a nationwide event, with the main demonstration in Washington, D.C.

Megan Hartford organized the march in Manhattan, which included speakers and a walk through the Aggieville district.

“Our bodies are not here as an object to be controlled,” Hartford said. “Our bodies are not here to satisfy someone else’s need for power. Our bodies are ours and ours alone. All bodies are good bodies. All bodies deserve full and complete autonomy.”

Hartford spoke about the new anti-abortion Texas law, which she said disproportionately affects poor and low-income people. The law bans the termination of pregnancies after six weeks, and exposes those who assist women to $10,000 payouts if sued under the law.

“It’s not only the fine, but also the fact that to actually obtain an abortion, one would have to travel out of state, or find an alternative method, which is not feasible for most who are at a socioeconomic disadvantage,” Hartford said.

Demonstrators begin their march Saturday through Aggieville. Many people brought signs to the protest. (Bailey Britton for Kansas Reflector)

The law disproportionately affects women of color as well as nonbinary and transgender people, said Rachel Levitt, assistant professor in the Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies department at Kansas State University.

Levitt said 50% of transgender and nonbinary people will experience sexual violence in their lifetime. In contrast, one in five cisgender men and one in three cisgender women will experience sexual violence.

“For many (nonbinary and transgender people), we can still get pregnant, whether we’re on hormones or not,” Levitt said. “So for those of us that are on high dose hormones or gender-neutral kind of level hormones, some of us will still ovulate. Some of us will ovulate but not have periods. So if we do get pregnant after either consensual sex or non-consensual sex, we don’t have periods to indicate whether or not we’re pregnant.”

Because some women don’t know they are pregnant at six weeks, the Texas law presents challenges to getting an abortion legally, Levitt said.

“This is a structural issue in which the same people who are trying to limit access to abortion are the same people who are trying to ban access to gender-affirming care,” Levitt said.

The Manhattan march coincides with rallies across Kansas and nationwide in response to a restrictive new Texas law and other attacks on reproductive rights. (Bailey Britton for Kansas Reflector)

To make sure this doesn’t happen in Kansas, the march organizers encouraged people to vote and remain educated on laws, politicians and elections in their areas.

During the August 2022 primary, Kansans will have the opportunity to vote on a constitutional amendment that would reverse a Kansas Supreme Court ruling and make clear there is no right to an abortion in the state constitution.

“Restrictive abortion laws rarely have any effect on reducing abortion rates, but do have an effect on making women’s lives more difficult,” Hartford said. “If  the pro-life crowd was really interested in protecting the sanctity of a child’s life. They would fully support universal health care and equal access to quality education.”

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Bailey Britton
Bailey Britton

Bailey Britton is a senior studying mass communications and English at Kansas State University. She is the former editor-in-chief of the Kansas State Collegian.