HELENA - Montanans marched on the State Capitol in Helena Sunday following the U.S. Supreme Court released its decision overturning Roe v. Wade – eliminating a nationwide guarantee of abortion rights.
More than 1,000 people took part in the Montana March for Reproductive Rights event in Helena, with other similar events happening across the state. Protesters held signs and let their objection to the Supreme Court decision clearly known.
March for Montana Reproductive Rights Event Organizer Reilly Neill said the rally was for action. After the opinion overturning Roe v. Wade leaked in May, the grassroots group sent out an immediate response kit, which included instructions for people to be prepared to march the Sunday after Roe vs. Wade was overturned.
Attendees MTN spoke with described the decision as a "huge step back" for women's rights in America. They shared worries that women in states where abortion is now illegal will turn to unsafe and potentially life-threatening methods to terminate a pregnancy.
Abortion remains legal in Montana following the overturning of Roe v. Wade. In 1999 the Montana Supreme Court ruled abortion fell under a woman’s right to individual privacy under Montana’s constitution.
Jodi Medlar was at the protest because she said the U.S. Supreme Court decision was disastrous. Born in the 1970s, Medlar said her whole life she's had the right to make decisions about her healthcare. Losing a fundamental right is scary, she said, because she doesn't know what will happen.
"Women will die as a result of this decision," Medlar said.
Alex Fry, 30, held a sign echoing a similar message: "Safe + Legal Abortion = Pro-Life."
Fry said he went to the protest to stand with women and called the reversal of Roe v. Wade ridiculous.
Mother and daughter Shelly and Emily Ehli attended together.
"It’s about realizing that me, as 19 years old in 2022, I now have the potential to have less rights than my mother did when she was my age," Emily Ehli said. "So, just the realization that we’re going backwards in a time where we shouldn’t be.”
“The more the people gather, the more power we have, and you feel that you’re supported," said Shelly Ehli. "On Friday, I didn’t feel supported, I was emotional, and so I just feel great to be here today.”
Elizabeth Dove and Brad Allen held a large pink banner reading "Not your uterus? Not your choice!"
"I didn’t have to make that this week — that was already made, and I actually got to pick from a few, and I have another one in my car that I didn’t pull out," Dove said. "It is frustrating that we have to return and do this and that it doesn’t seem secure, but you hope people will continue to motivate themselves.”
Rylee Smith and Ruben Marquez said they attended the protest to learn more about how to get involved in the reproductive rights movement.
Multiple speakers called for people to remain engaged as the debate — including paying close attention to the race for Montana Supreme Court this November.
"Are we ready to fight?" asked state Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell. "Are we ready to take our fight into the halls and galleries and committee rooms of the state Capitol? Are we ready to take our fight to the ballot box and the mail-in ballots to get pro-choice candidates elected? So much at stake."
“People need to get organized, people need to vote, and you need to make your voice heard, that this is something you want and you want to keep," said Mariya LaFramboise, who drove in from Craig for the event. "You have this right.”
A small number of counter-protesters drove around the event, with at least one on foot following the crowd. One person was cited for reckless driving after speeding around the capitol multiple times and revving their engine at protesters, according to Montana Highway Patrol.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated with quotes from individuals in attendance.